Avoid complexity in translation

Translation projects can vary from very simple product packaging all the way to very technical documentation in support of a product. But no matter how difficult the material there is no reason to use an overly complex process.

All projects should follow a basic path of translation, revision, layout, client review, final revision. Sometimes we make this process far too difficult by injecting complexity where it doesn’t belong! The key to producing a solid translation is to keep the data and feedback as close as possible to the translation memory database. The more steps and workarounds that are used to distance the material from the database, the more room for error and inconsistency going forward with subsequent releases.

Here are a few situations where we have seen clients inject evil complexity:

1. Not having a true source file – Some clients will ask a translation provider to work with files that do not have a text layer. In other words, the files might be images or PDFs (no text layer). This leaves the responsibility of creating the source by using OCR or retyping content. This isn’t horrible for low-risk projects but potential errors in this very first step can cause issues in translation.

2. Making tons of changes while the project is in production – I know this one is obvious. But the more changes you make to the source document while the translation is in process, the higher the risk of errors due to missing a change. If you have a large multilingual project, the odds for errors increase exponentially! A 30-language project will have at least sixty linguists: one translator and one editor for each language. Each change has to be communicated to every person on the linguistic team. Make sure to discuss your plan for changes at the beginning of the project.

3. Overly complex client review or approval – We have written a number of articles on what it takes to properly handle a client review of translation. There are a ton of different ways to compromise the benefits of a review pass, but I just want to stick to the complexity of handling the feedback for this article. The biggest mistake made in this step is removing the content from the translation database. In other words, the review is handled in a printed version of the formatted document with handwritten markups or even typed in comments in annotations. Now the changes have to be manually retyped back into the document as well as the translation memory database. This is a lot of manual effort. A better procedure would be to have the client reviewer work directly in the translation management environment and have a final review done by the editor. This way the final formatted document can come from the translation management system and the memory will be up to date in one step. This saves time and money!

The key to avoiding these issues is to have a clear and open dialogue with your translation service provider about all the things you would like to accomplish with each project. Oftentimes we only find out about a scheduled client review pass after the project is complete! If you let the translation company know about the review pass ahead of time, they can set up the project to include the review step in the workflow. This will save you time, money and headaches in completing your projects!

Remember, keep the approach simple! Don’t add complexity.