Making the decision to translate your documents and materials can be exciting, but also confusing.
Where to start? How to choose the best provider? Where to turn for help?
Here are some strategies to help you make a better informed decision when choosing your language service provider. They are also meant to help you better understand what translation entails, and why you should be an active participant of the process.
Before presenting your documents for translation, keep in mind the following:
Do you really need to translate the entire document?
Sometimes, only relevant sections of a document need to be translated. Or, a shorter version of the document can fulfill the purpose.
A picture is worth a thousand words
Use images if possible, unless written content is absolutely necessary or the best way to convey your message. Images that you can use are pictographs, infographics, charts, diagrams, maps, etc.
Start by thinking international
Because not everybody can understand all the idiomatic expressions that may want to use, it is advisable to abstain from using culture specific clichés and metaphors, unless their adaptation is really possible without resorting to inelegant workarounds and unskilled witticism.
What is your readers’ language?
Show your clients how important they are to you. Put yourself in your their shoes, speak their language, be sensitive to their culture, and discover how your services and products will help them.
Is style important?
“For information” translation can be accurate enough if what you need is simply a quick run-over of a document to get an idea of what it is about. It is also unpolished, faster and cheaper than “for publication” translation. It is definitely not the method to use if what you have in mind is to publish or share your document with your clients.
Translate finalized text, not a draft
The translation of preliminary sketches of a document is more time-consuming, thus more expensive. If your budget requires saving money as much as possible, it is better to make every effort possible to translate a finalized version of the document.
Different languages, different typography!
Typography varies from one language to the next. It is not wise to change modify it to make it fit your own language typography. Honor your clients by respecting the typographical conventions of their language.
What will it cost?
When we value the image we are projecting onto the world, price alone should never be the determining factor. Value should always rank higher than price alone. The value added by a translation company can save you and your team hours of work, and money.
Avoid doing it yourself
Are you bilingual or have you learned another language? Fantastic! However, speaking is not the same as writing. Project a less “foreign” and more polished image that won’t risk being perceived as mocking or insulting.
How about using teachers or students?
As above, we do not recommend doing this. Teachers’ and students’ skills are very specific, do not have anything to do with the skills required for translation, thus are not necessarily interchangeable.
Why not use bilingual people then?
Translators are trained writers, while bilinguals might not write fluently or translate skillfully, even if they speak fluently. There are even many bilingual people who can write in one of their languages, but not necessarily in the other.
Why not use free translation software?
Let’s not forget that “we get what we pay for.” Machine translation doesn’t handle disambiguation well; it doesn’t recognize language nuances, colloquialisms, word order in certain languages, or culturally based sensitivities. Besides, editing of the output by a human is still needed.
Look for translators who work into their mother tongue
One of the golden rules of translation is that translators should work into their mother tongue. The reason for this is that translators have a deeper linguistic and cultural background of their mother tongue than non-native speakers.
Communicate with your translator
As always, communication is the best option to better understanding and outcomes. For maximum impact, discuss the exact purpose of your document with your translator, provide references, and be available to answer questions as soon as they arise.
Welcome the inquisitive translator
The best translators read the text carefully, analyze it to render the best version possible, and ask relevant questions. It is always excellent news when you have a translator who asks questions, so be happy if you have got one just like that!
Have your translator proofread your typeset copy
Are your materials destined for publishing? If so, then it is highly recommended to always have them proofread by a professional translator, not just by a well-meaning non-linguist, who could inadvertently ruin them.
Technical subject matters require expertise
Translators should be experts in the subject matter, not learning about it while they work on your materials, and at your expense. The more technical the subject matter, the more knowledgeable your translator should be.
What happens in the world of scientific terms?
Scientific and technical translators are specialists in their subject matter and experts in handling technical terms; they convey the exact meaning of the source text without ambiguity or unclear constructions—something that has no place in science.
When it comes to choosing a translation provider
Choosing between an agency and a freelance translator is not always easy. However, when the time to make the decision comes, ask for samples of previously done work, not just references. Also, credit your provider on your printed materials; this will encourage them to keep providing you with top level quality work.
Take part in the process
Save money and avoid future stress by talking to your provider about what your project entails. Let them know that you are available to answer any questions related to the project at hand, and do not delay in providing the answers sought.
Wishing you the very best,
Adriana Adarve, Asheville, NC