Scientia potentia est. The observation rings as true today as it was in Sir Francis Bacon’s time in 16th century England. If you have an understanding of the work of a language services provider (LSP), you can ensure that you are receiving the services you require; the services are of the right quality; and the prices are kept to a minimum. At times, that is easier said than done.
In this month’s Client Education Series post, we will look at ways to have an idea of exactly what you, as a purchaser, want. Of course, it is possible to send a document to an agency and tell them to simply translate it. Although the translation will be provided, but not without exposing your business to a great deal of risk, which is simply not necessary.
Here is a quick example. Let’s say that Eduardo is a musician in Argentina. He wants to translate his new personal website from Spanish into English. The website consists of four pages on the topic of musical instruments. Eduardo finds two translation agencies online and sends each a letter asking for a quote. Within a day he receives two different quotations; one asking $500 and the second $1,500. Which agency should Eduardo choose? Neither.
Website translation is a complex project. Neither LSP sent a query inquiring Eduardo’s expectations: How long the pages are? How will the translation be delivered? In a Word file, or a bilingual Excel file? Or, perhaps, in an HTML file? What content management system does the website use? Does the translator require an acquaintance with musical instruments? Does everything need to be translated? Which variation of the English language Eduardo is looking for? The lack of curiosity on the part of translation agencies is appalling. We can only pray the final product does not turn out to be a fiasco.
Every agency has its own framework for managing translation projects. Your company cannot change it. But by figuring out what you need, you can hire an LSP that understands your unique requirements and is willing to deliver the finished product staying in your budget and time while maintaining the quality standards your business deserves.
Let’s have a look at the seven questions you should ask yourself before telling an LSP to translate.
Which Regional Variant of a Language Does the Text Need to be Translated Into?
Most people would say they need a document translated into English, Spanish, or German without usually specifying who will read the translation. For example, take English. A simple innocuous sentence “I have a flat.” can mean two different things, depending on which side of the Atlantic you are. In the United Kingdom, readers will think that you have an apartment. But in the United States, the sentence will mean that you have a flat tire.
Think about whence most visitors to your websites come and choose the variant of that region. If your audience is equally divided into US and UK visitors, you can tell your translation agency to stick to the UK spelling minus all the colloquialisms. If you requirements are more complex, don’t hesitate to speak to us.
What will the Translated Text be Used For?
Unless you tell them explicitly, many LSPs just assume what the translation is going to be used for. Their assumptions don’t often turn out to be correct. That often means redoing the translation (more work for them) or lowering the standards (hurting your brand). Avoid the guessing game.
For higher quality translations tell your agency how you are going to use the finished product. Will it be a speech, or a written press release? Will it be a public document, or an internal communique for your employees? Does the tone need to be formal or informal? That information will go a long way to raising the standards of the final product.
Is there Specific Terminology that Must be Adhered To?
You will often see businesses displeased with translations despite translations being of high quality. The reason usually boils down to terminology. Many companies use specific terms for their products. For instance, “knife” instead of “blade” or “iPhone” instead of “smartphone.” They cannot accept an LSP replacing those terms with synonyms because their brand’s recognition relies on some specific set of words.
If you are seeking consistency, share your existing translations with your translators and provide them references to style. It upholding terminology is really important, you can create vocabulary lists in Excel. Some companies have those lists running into thousands of words.
Are Updates Low Cost?
Software manuals need to be changed or updated frequently. If your text will need amendments in the future, tell your LSP about it. Updates are not a big issue for translation agencies. And if the agency that did the initial translation is willing to provide updates, you can save quite a lot of money and time while achieving consistency.
Do You have a Style Guide?
Large companies tend to stick to a style guide to ensure their texts have the same look and feel. Generally, LSPs return the translated documents in the style and formatting they received the source language text in. But if an LSP is not experienced in desktop publishing, they can return the text in a Word file, making things difficult for you. If your business uses a style guide, share it with your translation agency and tell them that you want the translated text in the exact same format. It is especially important if either the source or text language is Arabic or Hebrew.
What Should the Text Length Be?
“In every game or play, differences in skill between individuals can be substantial.” translated into Japanese could be “相碁井目.”
The 13-word English sentence is reduced to a four-character idiom. Now, imagine what this minimalism can do to your brochures. A full-page document in English can be little more than a paragraph in Japanese, wrecking havoc on your page layout. It’s generally a good idea to allow your designers to work with your translators to achieve visual consistency between translations.
What is the Deadline?
You should always communicate your desired deadline with the agency. Generally professionals are capable of translating 2,000-3,000 words a day. But if you have an even tighter deadline, tell your contact person in the translation agency. A translated text that is delayed is as good as the one that never existed.
To sum up, never tell your agency to simply translate a document. It opens the doors to all sorts of misunderstanding and mistakes. Think about your requirement and communicate them to the agency for quicker, higher quality, and in-budget translations.