10 Things to Consider before Requesting a Translation

We are often so focused on our day to day work, that it’s easy to forget that your translator is not just the person who translates your documents, but your advocate for getting the best out of your documents.

If you have a clear idea of the following considerations when tackling a translation request, you will ensure that your project gets done sooner, you will get a better quality translation and you might even save money.

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Together we will ensure that we provide the highest quality translation, while not incurring unnecessary costs.

1Does it all need to be translated?

Read the document again, from the perspective of your target audience.

There are instances in which a document is originally created and used in the U.S. When the need to use its translated version in another country arises, you might find that you don’t need to keep the sections that are U.S. specific (some laws, conditions, services, etc.). Cutting them out is an option that will save you money.

You might have a 30 page article and know that you only need specific information from it. You might choose to translate only the conclusion, or 5 pages of the article. Let your translator or translation project manager know. They can work with you to figure out the best solution. One option could be doing a quick read of the article to find what you need and translating just a few pages or summarizing it.

2- What is the purpose of the translation? Is it meant for publication?

It’s not the same to translate for “internal use” or for your client’s eyes. If the intended reader is your client, you will want to make sure that the translation is edited by a second person who is an expert in the field. You might even need a third person to go over the formatted final version to ensure quality assurance. In the end, several people will have translated, edited, formatted and proofread your document.

On the other hand, if you only need internal documents to be read by your team in another country, you might want to skip some steps that would increase translation costs.

3- Is this the final version?

Avoid mid-project changes. If you know they will happen, let your translation project manager know as soon as you can, so that they can plan accordingly and inform the team. Otherwise, you will increase the cost of the translation project.

4- Where will the translation be used? Which language do you need?

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It’s very important to know where the translation will be used, and how. For example there are roughly 570 million Spanish speakers in the world (40 million in the US in 2015, according to the American Community Survey). Although we all share Spanish, we don’t have the same dialect, nor do we use it in the same way. A text produced for the Ecuadorian market should not be used in Argentina or in Spain. The language just wouldn’t be the same and overall the text wouldn’t feel natural to the reader.

Also, confirm who the intended audience is and if Spanish is enough. Some Spanish speaking countries only have one language, while others such as Spain or Peru have more (Catalan, Galician and Basque for Spain; Quechua, Aymara, etc. for Peru).

5- What is the format of the original file?

Software translation is a type of translation specialization

Sometimes we receive a non-modifiable file, such as a PDF, but we do know that the original document was created with another type of software, such as Microsoft Word or InDesign. Although PDFs are wonderful to see how the document is formatted, it can make translating them more time consuming and costly.

If you do have the original file or folder, send it to your project manager. It will help them for quoting purposes. Recreating a pdf might mean that the translation project manager needs to prepare the file so that the team of translators only worries about translating and not formatting. Once the translation is done, there might be the need for Desk Top Publishing (DTP) to be done, so that the final translation looks like the original.

Even if you do have the original file, it is still useful to receive its PDF version. This ensures that the translator will be able to see the text in context (Is it a sentence, a segment, a table, or an image?).

6- Does the document have images with embedded text? Is there hidden text?

Does the text in the images need to be translated too? If so, are those images editable? If they are not, your project manager can offer to add a layer of text on top of the image, or to modify it.

Another aspect to consider when dealing with images is if they are culturally adapted. What works in the U.S. for the English speaking population might not be adequate for your target audience. Let your project manager know if you are interested in finding out about cultural problems with the images.

If you have a PowerPoint presentation that needs to be translated, slides might have “notes” for the speaker. Do those need to be translated? The question of whether images need to be translated is also valid in the PPT presentations. Editable tables don’t pose such challenges as screen shots from other corporate documentation. In the case of non-editable tables, an option is to translate the content and recreate the table.

7- Do you have a deadline?

As you might have guessed from the previous points, a translation project can require multiple steps. The files might go through several hands and processes. Each time the files move from person to person, we need more time to end up with an excellent quality translation. Working with tight deadlines is possible, of course, but it’s nice to know that there is enough time devoted to your project.

Rush projects cost more, because we ask our team members to work outside of business hours, or to reschedule their already planned jobs.

8- Who will be the contact person in your company?

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No matter how smoothly the project goes, there will certainly be some questions to be answered along the way. It’s key to know who will be in charge of this. People involved in this step could be those directly responsible for the creation of the materials to be translated, or people in your company knowledgeable about the technical content. Either way, you need to know who the project manager needs to contact to quickly find those answers.

9- Will you have somebody in-house take on parts of the project?

Do you have a linguist in your company who will approve the translation work? Will your desktop publishing team format the translated materials? Those are key aspects that should be clarified from the beginning. Your DTP person might prefer to have a translation delivered in a certain format, or to make comments, etc. An in-house editor might ensure that the terminology used is consistent with that of your company. It’s important to have open communication, so that the project is smooth for every member of the team.

10- Do you have any previous materials that are already translated?

Translation team work and success

Last but not least, do you have any material from your company in the target language? If you do, it is worth the effort to find those documents. Your translation team will be delighted to have them. Receiving previously translated materials ensures that terminology is consistent throughout the company. Your translator will be able to gauge the company’s style and  determine the brand’s voice.

If you don’t have any material in the target language yet, that is fine too. Your translator will take care of finding your brand’s voice in the target language and creating a style guide for you. A style guide doesn’t have to be a long document, but it will focus on the main aspects to ensure that the style is consistent in future translations.

Previously translated materials are useful to start creating a glossary, with the key industry terminology used by your company. This could include everything from corporate titles, to the names of product colors, or the preferred words for common techniques.

As I said, your project manager and translator have your interests at heart. We are ready to team up with you to listen to your needs, and offer you the solution and conditions that suit your project. Together we will ensure that we provide the highest quality translation, while not incurring unnecessary costs.

Schedule a phone meeting today to assess your needs, objectives and challenges. This will be the best way to decide which steps to plan for your project.

Get the one-page checklist summary of this article, here. If you want to receive news and updates from Let’s word, click here. If you have any question, don’t hesitate to write a comment, I will be happy to clarify any doubt.

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