With Google Translate at our fingertips, it’s easy to assume that translation is a near-instant process. Unfortunately, despite recent developments in the world of computer aided translation (CAT) tools, translation is still largely an intellectual process carried out by skilled human brains. With the right tools, translation can be done more quickly without sacrificing accuracy, but there are still physical constraints that mean humans still produce only about 2000-3000 words per day of newly translated text. Automating the process with the right (CAT) tools for the job, while removing bottlenecks that can slow the process down will set your project up for success.
While high-quality, fully independent automatic translation is still firmly in the realm of science fiction, automating some parts of the translation process can speed up translation times and reduce costs, so it’s worth asking what tools your translation service provider has at their disposal. Online project management tools can automate workflows to save time on a constant flow of emails and file saving. Machine translation (MT) tools can process huge volumes of text almost instantly – but results will depend on how well you have prepared the text beforehand, as well as the type of text. Machine translation output will require post-editing by human translators familiar with working with this technology. If your provider is using MT expect them to be familiar with the requirements of ISO 18587, the (draft) ISO standard for post-editing of machine translation output.
Translation memory tools (TM) can reduce the amount of text for translation by eliminating duplicate phrases and sentences and by instantly finding text that has been previously translated for you. It also gives translators an easy way to check which terms have been used in your projects before, saving valuable time on terminology research and/or a terminology approval process.
A good translation service provider can look at every project and help you figure out the best tool or combination of tools to use.
#2 Communicate – Engage a translation service provider early in the project
As soon as you know you require material translated, start talking to translation service providers. There’s a lot we can do! We can help you plan authoring strategies and a course of action to streamline and save money. We can research and create terminology glossaries in advance so that this doesn’t eat into translation time, and get your approval on terms before the translators start working.
Share your timeline with us so we can pencil your project in and ensure we have the resources needed. It may be a long way off, and your schedule may change, but preparing in advance makes it easier to accommodate changes and tight deadlines.
Where possible, try to keep your translation service provider in the loop about any changes – both in terms of deadlines and the size and nature of the project.
#3 Write for translation
Having engaged a translation service provider, it’s a good idea to talk to us about guidelines on optimising your source text for translation. A lot depends on the type of text you are writing; machine translation can be great for lists, simple instructions or “chat”, while other types of text might be better suited for using a translation memory. For both tools differing authoring strategies are needed to get the best out of them. For some creative texts, like adverts, automated tools may not be helpful at all. For more information, see our leaflet: “How to save money on translation costs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”.
Writing for translation also includes involves making sure you try to avoid slang and idioms. You also need to be aware of anything from cultural sensitivities to gender norms and use of colour – but as it’s virtually impossible to be fully knowledgeable about every possible potential cultural impact, we’d advise on these as well.
Lastly, it may seem like an obvious point, but it’s also worth ensuring that your text is definitely a final version and ready to be translated. A source file that’s been proofread so it’s grammatically correct and free of typos will save you time in the long run. It’s also worth remembering the multiplier effect here; a small change is easy enough to make in the source text, but if that change then has to be implemented in five languages, that means involving five translators and five proofreaders, as well as the project manager quality checking five files. It all stacks up!
#4 Check file and formats
Most translation service providers can handle source text delivered in any format – Word, Autocad, InDesign, Json, XML. However, it is a good idea to check before to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Otherwise it could slow the translation process down if content needs to be converted before processing and or require additional formatting once translated.
The perfect scenario is that you deliver the source text in your original source files, it’s translated and then returned to you in exactly the same file format. Editable documents are always better than images (PDFs, JPEGs), and results will be faster (and likely cheaper).
Nice and simple this one. If you have tens or hundreds or thousands of documents to translate, tell us which ones, or which languages, are priority and…err…we’ll prioritise them.
With the tips above you can hand over translation projects to your provider knowing that you’ve done your bit. Then it’s all down to their super-heroic abilities to meet your tight deadlines…
The main rule? If you have text you need translated – call or email us now!