Maybe you are a savvy businessperson who knows how to market and operate a successful business on a global stage. Maybe you are new to the idea of partnering with companies in foreign countries. Either way, when you send your valuable, and sometimes confidential documents off for translation, you want to get them back quickly and without breaking your budget. More importantly, you want them to correctly reflect your mission, the culture of the audience, and the intent of your company’s message.
It sounds complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are seven document translation tips to simplify the process while turning a good translation into a great translation.
1. Choose the right translation partner.
The first tip for successful translations is to choose the right translation partner. As you begin to look for the best fit for your company and its translation needs, consider the scope of your projects. The company you choose will rely on you to be up front and honest about your expectations and needs. Knowing these will ensure the right translation company is chosen.
This company needs to have wisdom, international depth, experience, and a reputation for quality and customer service. They also should employ specialized translators, local to your target market, to ensure your documents are accurate and look as good in the target language as they do in their original language.
2. Be consistent.
Despite all the hype placed on machine translation, the best and the most accurate translations come from human translators. But there’s no need to translate the same phrases over and over again.
To make the most of translation, be consistent in your terminology, wherever possible within your original document. Establish an official glossary for the terms that are important for your business, and work with your translation provider to duplicate this glossary in your target language (or languages). Keeping your specialized terms homogenous across all your documents maximizes the benefits of using translation services, increases speed and efficiency in the translation process, and helps to keep costs reasonable.
3. Keep language simple (when possible).
Keep your language as simple as possible, avoiding overly complicated sentences, jargon, regionalisms and even humor. These are notoriously difficult to translate accurately.
Sometimes, as with legal documents, complexity and industry-specific jargon is needed. Marketing documents may rely on wordplay and humor. This is when experienced, linguists will save the day. Specialized translators with direct connections to your target market will know how to translate your humor, or even replace it with something better suited to the local audience, ensuring your translated documents leave readers smiling for the right reasons.
4. Don’t rely on Google Translate for essential documents.
Speed and price are important but when it comes to translation, they are not everything. In fact, if your translation is culturally inaccurate, these two things will not mean much. The old adage is true: you get what you pay for and value means more than fast and cheap. If you turn to free tools like Google Translate for your translations, you are probably not getting much in the way of value. Plus, you run the risk of reader confusion, damage to your brand, and possible legal consequences.
5. Use a design that’s easy to adapt.
Design may not be the first thing you consider, but it is highly important to any translated work. When documents are translated into other languages, the text often expands or contracts (depending on the language pair).
For example, when translating from English to Spanish, it’s not unusual for the text to grow by 15% to 30%. While translations from English into Japanese and even Korean often take up less horizontal space even though these two languages have more complex characters.
No matter how the original document is designed or what language pair you’ve requested, a design team that understands the culture you are addressing makes a difference. And if you know your original document will be converted into other languages, you can save time and money if you think ahead and design thoughtfully.
How do you minimize the amount of re-designing that your document translation project requires? Keeping your message simple along with an uncomplicated, clean layout with enough white space will require fewer adjustments. And be aware of target languages that flow in directions other than left-to-right – some Asian and Middle Eastern languages read right-to-left or top-to-bottom. Designing with this in mind can save you a later headache when your translations come in.
6. Build a style guide.
Designers do this on a regular basis. Creating a style guide for your documents takes work, but it pays off by delivering a seamless and efficient document translation process.
Also, style guides keep translated documents consistent and reduce the amount of time-consuming guesswork required of your translators. With a style guide on file, you can easily follow the outline assuring a greater accuracy. Plus, the translation team will have the resources needed to get the translation right the first time. This means less time spent on rework and faster translation times at a lower cost.
7. Ensure documents are finalized.
When authoring your documents, ask your colleagues for input. Make sure you have included their corrections and edits. Ask several people to review your documents prior to sending them for translation. This helps to ensure accuracy, comprehensibility, and completeness.
Translation project managers I know say that a project manager’s role “officially” begins upon final quote approval from the client. This is why it’s always best to thoroughly edit your documents before starting the translation process.