Translation preparation and process

Translation is all about dealing with materials in context. This means not just in the context of the full document to be translated, but the context of who is the audience, what will the end use be, what will happen in the future (e.g. updates etc.)

Where issues arise in translation is usually to do with a step in the translation process being missed. Follow the links on the left to work your way through the process.

Translation preparation

Translation preparation - Audience description

Probably the single most useful piece of information you can provide a translator is a good audience and usage description. A good audience description will have the following:

- Who will be reading this translation? Will it be presented to high level management staff, will it be for technical reference purposes or will it be for the general public in the target language(s)?

- What regions/countries will those people be in? A Traditional Chinese translation may not necessarily be for a Taiwanese audience. Your target may well be the Chinese community in Vancouver, LA or Sydney. Style and syntax may well vary.

- What dialect is required? Mexican Spanish is quite different from European Spanish, and the French of the Caribbean is again different from that of Canada. Particularly with front end marketing copy (such as websites) this difference is important.

- What not to translate? Are there any terms, brands, product names etc. that should not be translated? Many companies prefer to maintain a consistent brand name/look worldwide; or would you rather have your brand localized to a suitable target language name?

- Currencies and measurements? Should you be presenting pricing in the target currency or do you want it left in your local currency? With measurements, should these be localized (e.g. imperial to metric)?

There are other parts of the audience description that can be of great help to the translator, e.g. some content may have an age specific target market. The more information you can provide the translator the better.

Translation preparation - master content preparation

The next step is to ensure that the master content has been fully prepared. This means that a full set of the final materials are ready for translation. They should have been independently proofread at least once, checking for typographical errors ("were" instead of "we're") as well style and structure. Don't just trust it to the spell checker in Word.

Note also that when a translator has to work with isolated terms (such as when translating within data strings from an online database or application) that there will be a lot of questions. For example, the word "link" in English can be a noun ("a link") and a verb ("to link"); when viewed as an isolated term the usage may not be immediately apparent.

It is also important that once you have sent this to the translator(s), that the content is not changed/edited any further at your end until the translation is completed. Issues will arise when clients make multiple edits to master content during the translation process; tracking of the changes becomes difficult and maintaining consistency with the final version can be an issue.

Translation preparation - file preparation

We prefer if the client supplies a full set of files, with a file list (e.g. as a spreadsheet) and submits to us. This way we can ensure we have not missed any files and it is a simple matter for both parties to track the completion and delivery of the content. Note that some DTP application do not work particularly well across languages (indeed in some applications a file created in one language version of the application cannot be opened in a different language version). It pays to check with your translation provider.

One other issue relates back to translating in context. We frequently work on websites etc. where we have to translate in data strings. Translating in data strings is not an issue; but we do need to be able to see the final translation in context. It is a very different proposition looking at independent lines of code and the final web page where the translation is published.

Translation pricing

Translation pricing comes from 4 components -

1. Language. What language pair are we working in? Some languages are more expensive than others.

2. Content type. Content that requires specialist knowledge and skills (e.g. pharmaceutical product descriptions) require translators who have a background in the specialist field.

3. Volume. Usually based on a word count, this is a major factor in pricing.

4. File type. Some file types are more difficult to work in that others. Translating and typesetting a brochure in Quark takes several times the time to translate the same volume of words in Word.

Contracting

For all of the translation work we do we provide a full contract, terms and conditions and payment outlines. Should our translation quote be acceptable we will then ask for the contract and terms and conditions to be signed and returned, and for all first time clients we require a deposit payment to be made. Generally we can give an estimated turnaround time with the initial quote, and then confirm the delivery schedule on receipt of the signed contract.

As part of our overall business, we carry full Business Liability Insurance to the value of $1 million NZD. Our insurance is underwritten by ING, one of the world's largest business insurers. This insurance covers all of the work we do; we have never had to draw on it but believe as a responsible business it is in our and our client's best interests to do so.

Translation process

Pre-translation Analysis

The first step is content and file type analysis. Here we review the content type to be translated (website marketing copy, engineering product description etc.), the file types to be worked on and the client provided audience description. There may be questions and clarifications at this stage where content is unclear. 

When the most appropriate translators have been selected the work is scheduled and sent out to the translators. It is important to note that all of our translators meet the following minimum requirements:

- post graduate qualification in translation

- native speakers of target language

- resident in target language country

- 3 years experience or more

- have passed our internal audit process or are certified by their local translation authority (where applicable)

Translation

All our translators work as part of a team. A typical team will have a project manager/lead translator, editor and proofreader. Please note we only provide publication ready translations; we do not do translation only (no proofreading), nor do we proofeading of other people's work. At no stage do we use any machine translation system whatsoever, except to build glossaries or check for consistency of technical terms in the translated content. We have yet to see a machine translation system that creates any kind of translation that we would be comfortable presenting on our own web page, so we wouldn't want to use it on yours.

The typical process is a first cut/first draft translation. This is then followed by editing. Editing looks at accuracy of the translation (mapping back to the original master language) as well as style and flow. Finally is proofreading; proofreading is mainly concerned with the accuracy of the translated text (checking for spelling, typographical errors etc.) as well as checking code consistency for tagged files.

Especially with projects where some kind of transformation is required after we provide the translation to the client (e.g. where we send text to be loaded to a database or website) we leave the final proofreading stage till after the translated content has been loaded in its final form. This is to ensure there are no issues in that transformation process.