Advice on how to buy a translation

Thursday 25 February 2016

The first question to ask when opting to buy a translation is does it need to be translated? If you are working with complex documents written in one language that need to be re-written into another for a new market, or legal documentation, then chances are yes, the document will need translating. If, you need someone to assist in a court case for example where your defendant speaks a different language, then you will need an interpreter aswell.

We have been translating legal, medical and technical documentation since 2005 with a team of 1,500 translators. The following tips will help you avoid some of the common mistakes we’ve seen when clients request a translation.

  1. Understand cost
    Prior to ordering a translation make sure you understand how you will pay for it. Here’s a summary of what is involved in the cost of a translation. Ensure that you ask your translator about translation memory so that you can make savings going forward. Check whether set-up and project management fees are included.
  2. Give a detailed brief
    Communication is key. Describe in as much detail as you can what your translation is for and who will be reading it to fully put your translator in the picture. Provide your translator with a key contact whom they can keep in touch with if they have questions throughout the project.
  3. Cut down your document
    Before submitting your document for translation to your translator, identify the level of detail that is required. Do you need a full translation or is it for information only? Understanding who will be reading the translation will help here. Remove any unnecessary sections such as introductions about your company or team members involved with projects unless they are completely essential for your readers.
  4. Choose ‘for-information’ translation if applicable
    If your document is for in-house use only and not for publication, then it may suffice to opt for a ‘for information’ translation. This will dramatically reduce the time and cost applicable as only a brief, direct and to the point translation will be produced.
  5. Use images if possible
    It is true that a picture speaks a thousand words. Often products can be labelled with a graphical image rather than a paragraph of text which will cut down on translation costs.
  6. Avoid cultural references
    It is all too easy to write familiar phrases into your publications but do check that they work outside of your geographical locale and will translate. There is little point in referring to popular culture in your native territory as it will likely mean nothing to your overseas audience. Similarly, including a play on words could lead to confusion in a translation therefore it is wise to steer clear of these.
  7. Understand your readers
    Be sure to translate into the precise, regional language of your readers. Give an accurate representation of your audience to your translator so that they fully understand the cultural factors too.
  8. Beware translation software
    Generally not good enough for professional translations, translation software is unable to account for precise regional meanings and often produces a poor translation. Beware.
  9. Maintain version control
    Ensure that your translator is working from one final document. Avoid sending ‘updated’ versions as this adds confusion to a complex process. Instead ensure that the document you send to your translator is the absolute final one and if there has to be amendments, ensure that strict version control is adhered to.
  10. Choose the right translator
    Translators translate into their native language. Be wary of selecting translators who say that can accurately translate into languages other than their own native tongue or are simply bilingual. They’ll need to have good references and samples and have kept up to date with their language training. In addition, be clear about the subject matter. Any translator you employ should be an expert in the field of that which is being translated, they should not have to learn the subject matter along the way.
  11. The final proof
    If possible, enlist your translator to proof your final production of the translated document. It is all too easy for graphic designers, marketers and typesetters to make an inadvertent error.  Accents, symbols and spaces often vary from language to language, e.g., the French quotation marks are « » instead of “” – before going to print. Get the final sign-off from your translator.
  12. Set realistic deadlines
    All translators are used to dealing with tight deadlines but be realistic when deciding on your timeline. Start your search for a translator as early as possible in the process.  It is vital that you allow not just enough time for your document to be translated but also time for proofing, amendments and a final translator proof if your document is for publication.

Expert translators RL Translations can translate in any language in any subject. With a decade in the industry and a 1500 strong team of translators, contact us for a free quote with your translation enquiry.

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