How to get an accurate translation?
Outsourcing your translation needs can be a confusing business for foreign language companies. There’s a veritable ocean of freelancers and translation agencies out there, so how can you be sure you’re choosing the right people for the job? And how can you be sure you’re receiving a professional accurate translation that’s going to wow your readership? We’ve put together a list of handy hints to help you in your task, so read on to discover the seven steps that lead to top quality translations.
Step 1. Make sure your translator has the in-depth, specialised subject knowledge you need
Before you consider taking on a translator, you need to consider if they have the subject area skills to do your text justice. There are many similarities in rules and approaches for technical texts, for instance, but you need to identify the relevant sub-topic. To give you an idea of how such a broad field breaks down, here’s a list of some possible sub-specialisms within the category of ‘technical translation’:
- Applied engineering
- Agricultural engineering
- Civil engineering (including construction, environmental and transportation engineering)
- Electrical engineering (including computer and electronic engineering)
- Energy engineering
- Industrial engineering
- Materials engineering
- Mechanical engineering (including automotive engineering)
- Military engineering
- Petroleum engineering
- Software engineering
It’s quite a list already, and there’s plenty more we could add. It’s clear that these topics are extremely different from each other. If we look at a sample piece of technical vocabulary, we’ll discover the pitfalls that await a non-specialist English into Russian translator, for example.
The English word ‘tube’ has over 20 translations in Russian, depending on context. It can be translated as ‘трубка’ for the term ‘display tube’ or ‘лампа’ for the term ‘catkin tube’, both IT and electronics terms. Another electronics term, ‘drift tube’ becomes ‘труба’ or ‘пространство’ , but in transportation the London tube becomes ‘туннель подземной железной дороги’ or ‘метрополитен’. In the field of construction, ‘трубопровод’ is the right term for branch tube; while ‘шланг’ is for the rubber tubes mentioned in automotive texts. If you’re talking about oil and gas, ‘soil-sampling tube’ should be translated as ‘керноприёмник’, but the correct term in the domain of agriculture is ‘почвенный бур’.
It’s the same story with most technical terms. The sheer variety of different translations can be baffling, so it’s vital your translator knows exactly what they’re talking about.
So, the first step to receiving accurate translations in Russian, English or any other language, is to make sure your translator is a specialist not only in your general field, but in the right sub-area too. General translators without experience in your specific area cannot provide high-quality meaningful translations.
At Translators Family all our translators have narrow translation specialisations. We have teams of English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Ukrainian, and Russian technical and engineering translators with a wealth of experience in automotive, civil, electronics, energy, industrial, telecoms, oil and gas, transport and other fields. Our IT translators have a range of sub-specialisms such as software, hardware, Internet, telecommunication equipment, e-commerce, intellectual property rights, legal and more.
Step 2. Look for a well-organised team or company of translators
Finding a freelancer who has just the right specialism for you is fine, but what if your text has two or more specialisms? Let’s say you run a cement plant. In the course of your business you might need operating manuals for cement plant equipment, safety manuals, environmental documentation, training materials, financial, legal and marketing papers, business proposals and correspondence… the list goes on.
Just as you wouldn’t ask your accountant to design your marketing material, you can’t expect one translator to do all these different tasks either. This is the reason why choosing a well-organised translation team or company, rather than a single individual, is a smart move. This way you’re tapping into a much wider pool of skills, knowledge and abilities. Various team members can work together in various combinations to meet your specific needs.
At Translators Family our translators work together efficiently to ensure each text benefits from their diverse specialisms. Our project managers are translators themselves, so they know exactly which translator to assign to each particular document.
Step 3: To err is human, to check divine
Make sure your translation provider offers an extensive editing service as standard. To guarantee the consistency and quality of translations, editing is vital. No matter how professional the translator is, we all slip up sometimes, which is why there should always be an editor or, better still, two – one technical and one linguistic.
The technical editor might be another translator or even an engineer or IT specialist. They check that the translation is correct and complete, that the terminology is spot on, and that the project glossary and style guide have been followed to the letter.
The linguistic editor or proofreader then double-checks the spelling, grammar and style. They make improvements using their own specialist knowledge to make sure the text is appropriate for marketing or legal purposes if necessary.
Two-step editing is vital for IT or engineering documents with both technical terminology and a marketing or legal function. Rarely is one person very good in both marketing or legal and engineering or IT, so two-step editing is a great way to make sure experts on both sides of the fence have had a good look at your text.
At Translators Family we apply a comprehensive multi-stage quality control process for technical, marketing and IT translation projects. After translation, there’s a technical check and a linguistic check. Then our QA manager runs a quality assurance check and the project manager finishes off with spot-checking. That’s five linguists in total, making sure that every text we send back is the very best work we’re capable of.
Step 4. Find a translation vendor with a DTP team who can handle any file type
We know your business documentation comes in many different formats, including:
- Microsoft documents (.doc, .xls, .ppt), possibly involving graphics with text, tables, diagrams and other non-editable elements.
- Adobe Acrobat files (.pdf) with non-editable scanned text
- AutoCAD drawings (.dwg)
- Files created in professional DTP software (InDesign, Adobe FrameMaker, Quark and so on). HTML files, with a mix of editable text and code
The ever-growing variety of file formats and increasingly complicated layouts can cause difficulties for freelance translators, who might not know how to work with all of these file types.
So, the fourth step to receiving suitable translations is to find a translation company or a team of translators which also provides DTP services, to ensure that the layout of translated documents is consistent with or even better than the layout of source documents.
At Translators Family we offer the full range of professional desktop publishing services. Our team of DTP specialists and graphic designers can handle almost any file format and solve any difficulties, such as making a non-editable text editable or converting complicated file formats into translation-friendly ones. Because we handle all sorts of file routinely we have a smooth workflow, with DTP specialists working in a team with translators, editors and QA managers, coordinated by our project managers.
Step 5: Choose localisation services, not just document translation
Usually, IT, marketing and technical projects require more than just translation from one language into another. From software, games and websites to legal documentation or business correspondence and advertisement materials – all require localisation services.
Localisation is a complex process aimed at adapting content to the linguistic, cultural, and technical requirements of a target market. Russian business letters do not use the same conversational techniques as British business letters do. Native German speakers and native Ukrainian speakers are likely to find different product names appealing or offensive, often with a huge effect on the success of your product. And of course, contracts or terms and conditions are likely to take very different forms in two different countries.
The upshot of all this is that professional translators should not only be translating your text, but also adapting the text for the target market.
At Translators Family we offer the full range of translation and localisation services for English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian and other European languages. We are sensitive to the nuances of target markets, culture and realia, and ensure our translations are easily understandable, acceptable, catchy and correct.
Step 6: Make sure your translation agency has technology on their side
Nowadays, technology simplifies everything around us, automating routine work and freeing up staff to do less drudgework and more of the things that matter.
So it’s no wonder then that translators now have a variety of tools at their disposal to automate and accelerate the translation and localisation process. Machine translators are still far inferior to professional human translators, and should be avoided, but there’s plenty of tools out there to speed things up and increase accuracy.
CAT tools, short for computer-assisted translation tools, help save time and money when a text is very repetitive. Using a CAT tool means the translator does not need to translate the same phrases a second time. They just translate it once and then the software can easily copy and paste repetitive or partially matching text. The translator just has to check that the translation has been pasted correctly, editing as necessary. In highly repetitive technical texts CAT tools are a godsend, saving customers considerable sums of money on their translations.
There are also quality assurance tools to help check spelling, grammar, adherence to glossaries, numeric mismatches, etc. A variety of software localisation tools are multi-functional, and considerably simplify the localisation process, providing the opportunity to capture all software text easily and deliver the final localised software with the translation plugged in seamlessly in all the right places.
At Translators Family we use all the leading CAT tools (e.g. Trados and Transit), linguistic quality assurance software (e.g. Xbench), and localisation software (e.g., Passolo). We offer up to 80% discounts for repetitive sentences in the text, thanks to the benefits of CAT tools and similar technical aids.
Step 7: Always choose native translators
Languages are immensely complex systems of meaning with huge amounts of subtlety and nuance that are only shared and understood by native speakers. When anyone translates into a foreign language, they may make mistakes in grammar and style, as well as in more subtle areas: choosing the wrong word, not understanding connotations, or missing meanings. Non-native speakers can rarely, if ever, hand back a beautifully written and accurate text that fulfils its purpose perfectly.
High-quality translation can be produced only by a professional native translator, one who has studied and lived for a long time in the country where the target language of translation is the everyday language.
So, these were the seven steps to receiving an accurate translation. Incorrect translations, especially for technical, medical, and legal industries can have rather serious consequences, such as injuries of staff, machine failure, and financial losses. That’s why, it’s so vital to choose carefully hiring a translation services supplier for your translation project.
At Translators Family, e.g., all our English into Russian translations are carried out by native Russian-speaking linguists, and our English into Ukrainian jobs by native Ukrainian-speaking ones. When we translate from Russian or Ukrainian into English we involve English native-speaking translators and/or proofreaders.