September 24, 2019 Writing in English
How to Run a Translation Project for Dummies
Your company is growing and it aims to enter new markets abroad. You’re in charge of choosing the translation solutions that best fit your needs. Languages and translation are new for you, and you’re not sure where to start your quest for the ideal provider. What are different options? What key translation points should you research? What is really important to run a successful translation project? In this article, you’ll find some of the traps to avoid and some tips to choose a provider that will really help your company thrive on your target markets.
Translation Agency or Freelancer?
First of all, you have two main options when searching for a translation provider: You can work either with agencies or freelancers. Agencies are best if you need your content to be translated in many different languages at once, because freelancers usually translate into only one language (though they sometimes specialize in two or three). Let’s say you need your material translated into ten languages. If you decide to pursue freelancers, you’d have to look for ten different providers (one for French, one for Japanese, one for Italian, and so on). However, if you hire an agency, you simply send everything to the Project Manager, who will then send you all the files in each language when the translation is complete. With that said, if you deal with one to three languages, a freelancer is the best choice. Why? Because you can develop a durable partnership with your translator(s). As time goes on, they’ll know your products or services very well and will be able to carry your company’s message and values on the foreign market as efficiently as if they were one of your in-house employees. Finding a trustee provider is the most important step in your translation project.
When you enter a foreign market, keep in mind that you are also entering a new culture. Many concepts that are crystal clear for you may sound awkward or unnatural in a foreign country. Your translator is here to provide advice on how you can adapt your marketing and documents to make the best possible impression on your target audience. A professional translator is perfectly bicultural. They’ll be able to tell you if your slogan or product name must be adapted. Their expertise in both languages and cultures make them the best person to address this topic and assess how your communication is likely to be perceived abroad. Don’t hesitate to discuss that in depth with them even before you launch the translation. If your company does not take time to adapt its message to the local culture, there is a big risk that the goals won’t be met.
Running a successful translation project can be tricky, especially if it is your first try. You’ll find below some major traps that you can fall into, and some tips to avoid them.
Very often, when I approach some companies to offer my translation services, I receive the same answer: “We don’t need that here because we are all bilingual in our office.” Non-linguists won’t immediately see what the problem is here, but they usually realize it after experiencing failure on foreign markets. Speaking two languages and translating professionally are two different things. A translator is, above all, a skilled writer and an excellent copywriter. Not all bilingual people are good writers. You can be an excellent negotiator in Italian or in French but have a poor writing style in those languages. When you translate your products or services into a foreign culture, you want to convey your company’s message and values. If the bilingual collaborator publishes a poorly translated version, it will be the image you showcase to your foreign customers—which can be pretty damaging for your reputation abroad. In this case, you risk negatively impacting your sales. For more on that topic, see my blog post “Translation: Buying Cheap Is Actually Expensive.” It is equally risky to ask a language teacher. Teachers are good at teaching a language (grammar, vocabulary, etc.), but they haven’t necessarily been trained to develop their writing and communication skills. Even if you are all bilingual, your company will benefit from hiring a skilled professional linguist for the job. Your company’s reputation abroad is at stake—better make a wise choice for your translations.
To save time, many people think it is a good idea to launch the translation of the first part of the document when their team is still working on the second part. Don’t do this! It’s a terrible idea, and it does not save time whatsoever. Very soon, the translator will receive a phone call along the lines of: “I hope you haven’t translated page 10 yet, because we noticed that it needs to be updated.” Instead of saving time, both the translator and your team will lose hours to compare the versions, to make sure the most recent update is accurate, and so on. Same for Track Changes—be sure not to leave any pending comments or questions. Always make sure that your document is completed and ready to be published before you send it out for translation.
Machine Translation, Why Not?
In your search for a translation provider, you’ll probably come across some companies advertising machine translation. It can sound pretty attractive. They claim that you can translate in any language you need for just the cost of a software license. Don’t get fooled here. Even if machine translation has improved a lot over the last years, a computer is still doing the translating (and a computer has no idea about the different nuances required to express your message in the best possible way). Machine translation should never be used alone; make sure that a human linguist always checks the output. That’s what we call post-editing. The content is first translated by a machine, but is checked for consistency and accuracy by a professional translator afterward. This method is not a good choice for texts where creativity plays an important role, like in marketing, advertisements or any text when the style is prioritized. If your text is more technical, post-editing can be a viable option, but make sure that a human translator checks it before it is published. Even if post-editing meets the quality standards you are looking for, you’ll have many more advantages in working with a translator. Check my article “Why a Partnership With a Professional Translator Is a Benefit for Your Company—3 Things Machine Translation Cannot Do” to discover what the benefits of working with a professional translator vs. a computer are.
What About Budget?
In your quest for the ideal provider, you will probably ask yourself a key question: what about the budget? How much does a good quality translation cost? You’ll find prices ranging from one to ten. While a very high price does not guarantee quality, you can be sure that under a certain threshold, you are unlikely to receive a text that will adequately reflect your products or services.
How long does it take?
The delivery time is also something you must take into account, especially if you are working with tight deadlines. On average, a professional translator’s productivity is around 2,000 to 2,500 words a day. It can vary depending on the type of content and the experience of the provider. Doing a good job still takes some time. Don’t expect your translator to hand in a 200-page manual within two days. To get an idea, you can see how much time it took to your team to produce the original. Don’t push your translator too much while s/he is crafting the text that will promote your company. You need a reasonable amount of time to write good copy. If you set deadlines that are too tight (within 24 or 48 hours), it is likely that s/he’ll charge extra. Just a tip here: you can often save some money if you extend the deadline for a few days. Try to plan ahead to optimize the budget.
Last but not least, remember that your translator is standing by your side to achieve the successful promotion for your products or services on a foreign market. S/he must be able to offer advice and counseling. If the provider you picked does not answer your questions, it can be the sign that s/he is not up to the task you’re hiring them for. Your goal is to promote your company in a new culture, and the translator is the bridge to achieve it. Try to find someone that will treat your company’s message and values as if they were their own. Then, you can be assured that you’ll find a lot of customers on that new market.
In conclusion, I’d say that when you are looking for a professional translator, you should really pick a provider that brings value to your business. Try to build a durable partnership with them because the more you’ll be working together, the better you’ll know each other, and the better the communication will be. Don’t hesitate to discuss with your provider and ask a lot of questions, even before the project starts. The more information you can share, the more your translator will be equipped to promote your company’s products, message and values on the markets you are targeting. If you put these tips into practice, your translation project should run smoothly and you’ll be able to make a lot of happy new customers abroad.
Colin Pascal-Rohken is an English and Italian to French translator. He helps companies promote their products/services on French-speaking markets. Find out more at www.technicotrad.com