Let’s say you’re in the process of shopping for a translation partner. The options seem limitless but you’ve managed to narrow it down to three vendors that, at first glance, appear to offer comparable services, but costs vary amongst the three. What might account for the difference in costs between the highest and the lowest? The answer is one likely suspect — QUALITY. But why should an extra level of quality matter? Wouldn’t all three of these companies provide “accurate” translations of your content?
Perhaps. But in a competitive global market, “accurate” doesn’t cut it, especially when it comes to customer-facing content. Imagine trying to sell your products in Chinese with unpolished marketing copy. For any mission-critical content, including marketing, multimedia assets, website and training materials, literal translation falls short of giving your brand an authentic voice.
Well, isn’t that still better than no voice at all? Can’t quality become a priority further down the line when there’s a business case for an increased international budget?
Short of rebranding, you probably won’t get a second chance to launch in international markets. If you release a website that’s full of linguistic errors, or display bugs, or both, potential customers will click away and never return. Your translated content reflects on your brand and if you didn’t invest in quality, the message will be clear to your public — we don’t care about your business.
Many translation agencies tout the quality of their services while simultaneously offering rocket-speed turnaround times and heavily discounted prices. As an informed buyer, you understand that this formula has more than a little Disneyland fairy dust sprinkled on it. Quality is something that you pay for in the world of translation because quality requires an arsenal of safeguards and processes that correct, refine and perfect your content throughout the life of your project.
If you care about your brand — and if your financial success depends upon how your brand fares overseas — than you owe it to yourself to select a partner that values high-caliber translation in each phase of the project, not as an option or afterthought.
So what are the key steps your translation partner should take to ensure your source content doesn’t get lost in translation?
Glossary Development & Translation:
A glossary is a database of English terminology specific to your content. The glossary is translated into each target language. This ensures that key terms will be translated consistently throughout your content, just as they are consistent in the source English content. It also ensures they will be translated in the way that best fits your voice, your brand. For customers who have native speakers on their team, their review and approval of the glossary is an additional recommended step for quality and best capturing your company’s voice.
A style guide goes hand in hand with the glossary. It defines your voice, tone and style. Are you casual and fun? Formal and technical? It also defines language conventions per locale, for example date/time formats, address formats, when to use bold and italics, how abbreviations are handled in each language, etc. Once you’ve approved them, the style guide and glossary are important reference tools for the translators.
A creative brief is developed for marketing translation projects with highly creative content and/or marketing campaigns. It summarizes fundamental information about the product, brand and campaign to ensurethat translators understand the nuances of the company-specific language and business objectives. It includes branded terms that should remain in English or that have particular translations, such as taglines or product names. The creative brief also specifies the target audience (age, lifestyle, behavior) and the thought process that has gone into producing the original text.
Translation & Editing:
Best practices for translation include a two-step translation process. A first pass of translation is performed by one or more translators (larger volume projects may require more linguists), followed by an edit, or second pass, by a senior linguist(s). Two sets of eyes are always better than one!
Final QA Phase:
Whether your project is documentation, software, a website, or multimedia, a final linguistic QA should always be performed post-production to catch and correct linguistic bugs. Linguistic bugs may include words broken in the wrong place, characters not displaying properly (i.e., accents, umlauts,non-roman characters, etc.).
Thiswill also be the first time the translators will see the translated content in-context, giving them the opportunity to change a word here or there for a better flow, or in some cases literally a better fit size-wise as with navigation buttons.
Be sure your translation agency isn’t assigning your project to just “any available” translator. Look for a partner with a broad database of linguistic resources that have been professionally vetted.
To achieve the highest quality translations, your translation agency should hire linguists with these profiles:
- Native speakers, residing in their native countries so that they are close to the language and the culture.
- Subject matter expertise. For example, you won’t want to use translators with medical expertise if your project is a big data software project. All translators have their specialized areas of subject matter expertise.
- Degree or equivalent in linguistics.
- A minimum of three years’ experience in translation.