Ten things to consider for businesses in need of professional translation services

Use this simple checklist to make sure you receive the best possible translation services

So you’ve decided to outsource your translation needs, you’ve found a great translation services vendor and you’re ready to start work. But before you send off that big job, take a minute to read through these ten tips on how to prepare a text for translation, to ensure that the job goes smoothly and everyone is happy.

1. Check that your text hasn’t already been translated

This may sound like a no-brainer, but a surprising number of larger companies pay to have texts translated without checking if they already exist in translation. Most translators have had the experience of Googling a key term from a text, only to discover the entire text hidden somewhere on the client’s website. Particularly for large multinational corporations, or any company with decentralised management, a quick check could save you a pretty penny.

2. Proofread your text carefully before you send it

In order to make the translation process smoother, it’s a great idea to check that the text is correct before you send it. As you read through, think about whether it is easy to understand, even for people outside of your company. Make sure that it uses simple, clear language with no unnecessarily long or obscure words. Texts should aim for short sentences, be organised clearly into paragraphs and avoid repetition as much as possible. Now is also a good time to check that the formatting is consistent, if you want to save money. If you don’t want to worry about formatting, find a translation agency or a team of translators that will offer you this service in a package with translation.

3. Work out exactly what needs to be translated

Before you fork out for your 120-page product catalogue to be translated, stop for a moment and think tactically about whether your new clients really need to see the entire thing. If you are not rolling out your full product range in your new market yet, perhaps you should only translate part of your catalogue. Or perhaps you’re taking baby steps into a foreign market, in which case translating the entire website might be overkill, and it would be better to create and translate a basic version of the web page.

4. Think about making your text modular

One way to save money on translation, as well as speeding up the process and making it easier to benefit from the diverse specialisms of different translators, is to create materials in a modular fashion. This simply means making it easy to split a document into separate parts. Perhaps it makes sense to have one page for each product, or to separate all the legal information into one section, which can be sent to a translator specialising in legal documents. Maybe your website might have a functional 250-word introduction on each page, followed by further detail, so you can choose a basic or full translation for each new target language.

5. Maybe you don’t even need translation

Sometimes there might be an elegant solution to communicating a particular concept in many languages without resorting to translation. For example, many retailers create packaging instructions on how to put together flat-pack furniture using only diagrams. Images, videos and infographics are also commonly used in multilingual environments such as airports, so it’s worth considering if these forms of communication are appropriate for you. But beware, sometimes an image that seem straightforward to you may not go over well in your new market, as one pharmaceutical company found out. Looking to advertise the benefits of their headache pills without resorting to translation, they hit upon using a simple diagram of a sad-faced stick man taking a tablet and becoming happy. Unfortunately for them, the fact that Arabic speakers read from right to left made their medicine look like poison. So even if you are thinking about representing information visually, it’s a good idea to have a translation agency on board to advise you of any unfortunate unforeseen side effects!

6. Be absolutely sure that this is the final version

Before you invest any amount of money in translating something, it’s worth checking that it’s not going to be changed significantly any time soon. This may be a challenge if the document relates to some changing situation, or is liable to any kind of updates, but last-minute changes push up prices because translators have to rush to accommodate them, so it’s best to avoid them if you can.

7. Think about format and save money

For companies looking to spend as little as possible on translation, spending some time getting documents into a workable file format is a great way to cut costs. If you can provide all of your required text clearly laid out in a Word document (.doc or .docx) then this is ideal. If your text is in a scanned PDF, embedded in single layer image files such as JPEGs or PNGs, or riddled with HTML tags, this can slow down the translation process, as it makes it harder for translators to get at the relevant information and export it to their specialist translation program. Of course, you might not have the time, the inclination or the skills to embark on large formatting jobs prior to outsourcing, which is why it’s a great idea to find an agency that can take on DTP work for you. This way, you don’t have to worry about finding yet another outsourcer to handle this work, and you can send the text off in any format hassle free.

8. Consider how you can help your translator to help you

Translators tend to be excellent researchers, but they can’t read minds. You will speed up the translation process considerably if you can provide extra information that will help your translator out. For example, see if there is any supplementary material that could help them understand the text quickly and clearly. Perhaps the document involves highly technical descriptions of machine parts, in which case providing diagrams or photographs could be a godsend. Maybe your company uses certain keywords or phrases consistently, in which case your translator should be made aware that only one fixed translation is to be used for these terms. Even providing a link to the company website can really help a translator get a good feel for what your business does, your company culture, image and target market. For clients concerned about privacy issues, NDAs or ‘non-disclosure agreements’ are standard in the industry, which can give you peace of mind in providing sensitive information.

9. Know what you need

It is worth thinking about the purpose of the final text before you agree to a quote. The main distinction here is between texts that are for information and texts that are for publication. The first category applies to more informal documents. Perhaps your company has found some interesting resources in another language that you might like to use. Maybe you regularly receive emails from clients who do not speak your language. Or perhaps you need to understand an article in a relevant publication. In all these instances, you don’t need a perfect, polished translation, and so you should make this clear to your translation services vendor, who should offer you a lower rate. The second category, texts for publication, applies to the public face of your company. All marketing materials, consumer manuals, websites, legal documentation and any other material destined for publication fall into this category. Naturally, these materials need to be prepared to the highest possible standard, and this is reflected in a more thorough translation process.

10. Keep the lines of communication open

Finally, make sure that you communicate your needs clearly to your project manager. Let them know your priorities concerning the translation, make sure that you are clear about what stylistic requirements you have (modern? formal? fun?) and be available to answer questions if you can. Obviously, it’s much better for everyone if problems can be resolved and help provided quickly with the minimum fuss, particularly when building a relationship.

With these ten tips in mind, preparing a text for translation should be straightforward, but if you encounter any problems then it’s best to drop your translation services provider a quick line – after all, they are the experts.

At Translators Family, we are happy to offer help and advice throughout the translation process, making it as smooth as we can. For clients looking to save as much money as possible, we can advise on strategies, and for those who want to outsource the entire process without worries, we have an excellent dedicated DTP team to handle all your formatting issues headache-free, as well as a team of exceptional proofreaders, editors and QA specialists who can all apply their specific expertise, resulting in word-perfect texts. We offer a range of different price packages depending on your needs, with discounts offered for large volumes or long-term relationships. And each client is assigned a dedicated project manager, who is on call to handle any questions you might have about the process and ensure everything goes to plan. For comprehensive start-to-finish support from an experienced translation services company with excellent rates, why not contact us today?

1 Comment
  • Sam

    I love the way of writing this article.

    January 2, 2017

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