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7 Tips For Improved Translation Quality

28 March 2013 Thursday

When you spend money on a localization project, you expect a level of translation quality that matches your investment. Clients have every right to be upset when their agency delivers what appears to be sub-standard work.

When things go wrong, the natural impulse is to assume incompetence and blame the translator. But this isn’t always the case. On the contrary, most translation errors are the result of bad planning. Projects fail when client and supplier don’t communicate effectively.

Better dialogue and more preparation are the keys to improving translation quality. The first step is to find common problems and then take the necessary steps to fix them.

Problems From the Client Perspective

•    Poor use of language. The translated text is out of step with the client’s style and branding. This creates the impression that the agency hasn’t bothered to learn the client’s domain or doesn’t understand the intended audience.

•    Literal translation. The linguists have taken a word-for-word approach to translation, producing content that is technically correct but loses most of its original meaning.

•    Pedantic reviewing. The editing phase is excessively rigid, focusing on small details at the cost of overall quality and time efficiency.

•    The human factor. Different linguists often have different approaches, even within the same agency, this can lead to linguistic inconsistencies in translations of similar source texts.

Problems From the Agency Perspective

•    Corporate secrecy. Protection of intellectual property restricts communication between client and agency, making it difficult to develop a translation memory and improve on previous efforts.

•    Development cycles. When updates are released often, it’s difficult for translators to keep up with the evolving terminology. Agencies feel as if they’re being left out of the development process and scrambling to catch up at the last-minute.

Improving Your Translation Workflow

The issues outlined here are procedural and can be addressed with better work habits. These are the key areas where both client and agency should focus their energies to improve translation quality.

Better Communication

1.    Building relationships. Long-term partnerships will always deliver better results than one-off projects with various agencies. You’ll enjoy far greater success by picking one good supplier and sticking with them.

2.    Regular contact. When everything is running smoothly there’s a tendency to forget about your agency altogether. It’s only when things go wrong that clients pick up the phone. This is a mistake. Set aside time each week to touch base with your project manager and keep everyone in the loop.

3.    Comprehensive briefing. Your perception of translation quality may differ from that of the translators. Are accuracy and detail your main priorities? Or should the linguists take creative license to preserve meaning and emotion? Don’t leave these things to chance; it’s critical that you define what you want before the project begins.

4.    Define the review process. Don’t give your editing team an open brief; explain exactly how far and how deep the process should go. Give plenty of examples of what you consider serious errors that need attention, and smaller issues that can be safely ignored.

Better Work Processes

1.    Optimize Your Source Text. Accurate translation depends on the original content being readily understandable. You can make your text translation-friendly by using controlled language and a standardized vocabulary. Develop an in-house style guide for your content creators and share it with your agency.

2.    Start early. Localization strategy is often left until the end of a product development cycle, giving translators a limited amount of time to ask questions and refine their approach. By integrating language support more deeply into the planning of your product or service, the linguists have more time to achieve the best results.

3.    Measure constantly. There’s no “set and forget” approach to good translation; you need to constantly monitor and measure your efforts. Identify what’s working well and how you can expand on those gains.
For more information on how you can improve translation quality for your organization, get in touch with Milengo today.