Translation guides | 22.06.2023

8 Top tips when preparing files for translation

Translation services allow your brand to communicate with customers in their own language, while opening the door to increased global business. Effective translation relies on a number of factors, and while many of these are the responsibility of the translator and the translation services provider, some are in your control.

In this blog post we’ll share our top tips when preparing files for translation. These are lessons we’ve learned in over four decades of translation projects for clients all over the world, including industry-leading brands like DHL, and many others.

Follow these tips, and you’ll be guaranteed a smooth translation process with a clear and accurate outcome.


1. Set your expectations

Translating a document involves more than creating a word for word version in another language. As you go into the process, you (and anyone else involved) need to ensure your expectations on the deliverable are aligned with those of the translation services provider.

As expert translators, we have decades of experience in combining initial documents provided by clients with our cultural competence and the innate knowledge of our in-country linguists. This process ensures that the resulting document is tailored to the target language in terms of local norms, values, and even regulations.

It also helps for us to have context about the document: outlining the purpose, target audience, use case, and other relevant information at this stage gives the translator a better understanding of the project, and may highlight any areas they need to clarify.

Initial conversations are the place to gather any information required to align expectations on both sides, and these will be recorded in contracts and project outlines to ensure shared visibility and alignment throughout.


2. Proofread the document carefully

Translators are not proofreaders, and the onus is not on them to spot and remedy mistakes in documents they are tasked with translating.

And while thetranslationpeople are proud to offer assistance with original documents in need of improvement via editing and authoring services or transcreation, bear in mind that not all translation providers will offer the same.

As a result, you should subject any provided documents to your usual internal editing processes, checking them for spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and other issues that you don’t want to see make it to the translated version. Otherwise you may find that subsequent amends and corrections to the original incur additional translation costs.

Other things to look for at this stage:

  • Unnecessarily complicated sentences: Strive for simplicity where possible, as concise communication leads to a more accurate translation
  • Reduce or remove jargon: While jargon comes with the territory in some industries, we recommend removing as much as you can – again, this leads to a more accurate end result
  • Minimise cultural references or idioms: Language without a direct equivalent is harder to translate, and may need a process known as transcreation, which requires additional budget and extended lead times. In order to minimise potential extra costs and delays, translations often benefit from using generalised terms that work across languages


3. Share the document with relevant permissions

In today’s digital world, sharing documents is possible with a couple of clicks with the mouse. But surprisingly often, people forget the extra couple of clicks required to make these shared documents editable!

While translation services providers have specialist software that can extract text from documents for translation, it’s likely that they’ll also need access to the original versions. Sharing files without the relevant editing permissions can delay the translation process, and may even cause a bottleneck if the person or people responsible for managing sharing are unavailable.

We’d advise you to always check that documents are shareable, whether they’re online (Google Docs, MS Office etc) or otherwise (Word documents and so on). This should be outlined to you before the project begins, so you’ll know what you need to provide and in which format.

4. Make sure you share the final version

In a similar vein to proofreading, make sure that the version of the document you send is the final version! There’s nothing worse than receiving a painstakingly translated document, only to find out that it’s a translation of an initial draft, or even an incomplete version – albeit one free of spelling and grammar issues.

Make sure the document has been signed off by anyone who needs to sign it off. Also take a look at things like images, symbols, fonts and so on: check that all the elements in the version you’re sharing are rendered properly.

The fewer amends and changes you need to make once the translation process is underway, the less hassle you’ll have getting the project completed in a timely fashion (and the fewer additional charges you’re liable to incur!)

You can also save time and hassle by marking any elements that are not intended for translation. This might include quotes, graphics, charts, image captions or anything else.


5. Ensure visibility of Tone of Voice documents and similar

There are two important aspects to a translation: one is ensuring that the original meaning is retained, and the other is retaining the original tone as closely as possible in the target language.

For the latter, we strongly recommend sharing a Tone of Voice document and possibly a style guide. This will give the translator information about your organisation’s tone, stylistic preferences, and other points that go a long way to shape how a piece of writing feels for the reader.

If your organisation already has a Tone of Voice document, sharing this is a good place to start. If not, you can either put a comprehensive one together or, failing that, provide a list of pointers for the translator to refer to. We’d also advise giving the translator an opportunity to clarify points or ask questions, to make sure the information they have access to is as accurate as possible.

A good Tone of Voice document includes the following things:

  • Your values: What your organisation believes and why, and how this impacts your business
  • Your tonal values: The adjectives that describe your brand’s communication in various channels, things like ‘inspiring’, ‘assertive’, or ‘affirming’
  • Specific tonal values for particular channels: Not all tonal values will be relevant across all communications channels, so make sure to specify where and how they can be adapted
  • Examples: Snippets of dummy text showcasing these other points in situ, so that anyone reading gets a feel for how they work in real life


6. Ensure visibility of glossary

Retaining the original meaning is just as crucial as retaining the tone of voice, and a glossary is the most reliable way to do this.

A glossary is your chance to define key terminology that appears in the document for translation, or elsewhere in your business or the industry you operate in. The objective of this document is to make sure that the translator clearly understands any non-standard terminology they may not be familiar with, or any non-standard definitions of terms they are already familiar with.

A detailed, comprehensive glossary ensures that any terminology in the translated document retains its intended meaning, and that the way this meaning is communicated aligns with your preferred phraseology.

Your glossary should include:

  • Definitions of non-standard terms
  • Alternate definitions of standard terms
  • Definitions of any abbreviations
  • Sample sentences for brand phrasing like slogans

A good translation agency will work with you to create and approve a multilingual glossary that defines key terminology across all languages, to ensure that translations use consistent and company-approved terms.


7. Agree a channel of communication

Translation is a fluid process, and a reliable means of dialogue helps to achieve the desired end result in a timely fashion. If your translation agency can get in touch to resolve any queries not answered by the Tone of Voice document and glossary, the work can progress more smoothly.

At the project outset we recommend nomination a point of contact for the project: someone who will be on hand to answer such queries and keep things moving. This relationship becomes an invaluable part of ongoing projects, too: an enduring touch point with a brand means that translators and translation services providers are more closely linked and embedded in their operations, and develop a better understanding of their business and how it communicates.


8. Specify the turnaround time

We discussed setting expectations earlier, and this recommendation is in a similar vein. We’re putting it last in the list because it’s perhaps the most important: make sure your translation services provider is aware of any important deadlines attached to the translation!

Translating a document takes time, and while a tight turnaround is sometimes unavoidable, where possible we recommend planning ahead to avoid this. This gives the translator enough time to devote their full attention to the project, and to ensure that any queries arising during the translation can be addressed in good time.

Timeframes and deadlines should feature in initial conversations about the project, and should be included in formal agreements at the outset – again, to ensure aligned expectations from both sides.


Need help getting a translation project started?

These insights are just a small slice of the expertise we’ve built over four decades of translation for clients all over the world. Each translation project we take on benefits from this organisational expertise, and from the deep innate knowledge of our translators.

If your business needs translation services, get in touch with our team and we’ll be happy to help. We’ll build an understanding of what you need and pair you with the best suited translator based on your industry, target language, and project type.

You can find out more about our services here, or take a look at our case studies here.

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