Referring to these as “deadly” sins is a quite an overstatement, but engaging in any of the following seven acts can definitely cause havoc in your company’s translation efforts.
#1: Micromanagement – Getting too involved in your translation project.
Yes, you can be too involved in your translation project. When you hand over your taxes to your accountant, you probably don’t get very involved in the process of preparing your returns. Presumably, this is because you see your accountant as the expert in the matter. The same holds true for a successful translation project.
You have decided to use a translation company to accomplish something you cannot: produce your technical or marketing literature in one or several foreign languages and have it sound as if it had not been translated. You’ve chosen a translation company that you believe can handle the project; provide the materials they need, answer their questions, and trust that they are indeed the experts in the field.
#2: Holding Out – Not giving your translation company the materials they need to meet your requirements.
Your translation company should ask you for the materials they’ll need to complete your project. Reference materials might include English-language or previously translated literature that will expand the translators’ knowledge of your product. For example, an Acrobat PDF file of the layout of your project serves as a reference and, in desktop publishing, as a checkpoint that the layout matches your original.
#3: Inexperience – Working with translators who are unqualified in your subject area.
Not everyone who speaks a foreign language has learned the craft of translation. There are thousands of people who call themselves translators – only a small percentage of those are skilled enough to take on a technical translation project and do it right.
Machine translation (such as Google Translate or Babelfish) may seem like a viable alternative. The truth is that computers simply cannot recognize nuances that the human translator can. This is why “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” has been translated by a computer to say, “The whiskey is agreeable, but the meat has gone bad.” We think this is funny because we can differentiate the nuances of the original and thereby understand its meaning. A computer cannot yet do that. Machine translation is a tool that, when used in combination with the human element, can do what it promises – aid in translation. The pitfall is to expect too much of this technology.
The human translator remains the best choice.
Filtering through all the people who seem to be qualified to take on your project is a daunting task. How can you know if they’ll know the language well enough to render your English-language literature into the target language without making it sound like a translation? How do you know if they have the technical expertise to translate your message into a foreign language and use the correct technical terms? Again, this is part of the value your translation vendor brings to the table.
#4: Unrealistic Schedules – Not allowing enough time for the translation process.
Of course you have a deadline. You need brochures for that trade show; technical manuals to be with the machine you’re shipping and the ads to appear correctly in all three languages!
One way to get the best translation results is to plan ahead with your translation company so you know how much time it takes to complete your project. Your technical brochure probably wasn’t written in a week; neither should it be translated in a week.
When you have Asian languages to consider, the timeframe will probably be longer than for European languages. For example, perhaps you were planning on outputting all the languages you need in-house. Unless you have the specific software necessary to do this work in Asian languages, it simply can’t be done.
#5: Poorly managed client review – Assessment of the translation by associates whose qualifications do not match those of the original translation team.
Translators perfect their craft through experience, constant study, review by colleagues, and criticism by editors. A translator is not simply a person who speaks two languages, although that’s the most basic requirement, of course.
When your translation is created by an experienced translation team and delivered by your translation company, that final product is the sum of the experience, review, editing and criticism that the translation team brought to your project.
As part of the translation process, your translation company will edit and review the text before delivering it to you. For your final approval of the translated text, your translation company should encourage you to have a person of your own choosing review the translation one more time. This assures you that industry-specific (and company-specific) terms have been accurately translated. This client review serves another purpose: to ensure that the people in the field who will be using your translated material agree with the translation.
Caution: Be sure that the person you choose to review your translation is qualified to do so. The best person to review a marketing brochure, for example, is your in-country representative. He or she knows the terminology used in the field by your company, terminology that the translation team would have little chance of knowing. Ask your reviewer to look for and alter those terms as needed.
#6: Penny-pinching – Choosing your translation supplier on the basis of cost alone.
While cost is definitely a factor in choosing a translation company, it certainly is not the only factor you need to consider. Choosing on the basis of cost alone can be disastrous. Just as in your industry, the lowest cost probably does not equal the best quality nor the best value; the same is true in translation.
Consider other factors when choosing your translation supplier. What do their references say? Will you feel comfortable working with them? Do they have the translators and the technical skills and tools to meet your requirements? Is their quote reasonable? What kind of warranty do they offer on their work?
#7: “Just a Vendor…” – Not regarding the translation process as a team effort.
As with so many working relationships, the one you have with your translation company needs to be a team effort in order to be a successful relationship.
The team effort starts with planning the project and its timeline together so there are no surprises. Next, the team effort means that your translation firm adheres to your timeline. Give your translation supplier the materials they need. They’ll ask you some questions and get on with the job at hand. A good translation company will foresee what is needed, acquire the materials from you and deliver the job on schedule.
We pride ourselves at Advanced Language Translation on seeing every project as a team effort — from our quote, including our 180-day warranty, well past the delivery of your final translated project.