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The Importance of a Good Translation Brief

A translation is a specific service that is more than simply rendering a text from one language into another. It includes a great variety of services from software translation services to creative transcreation. To translate an overall idea and make it understandable to the target audience is called localizing. Text with the same source and target language may sound different if it is intended for a different audience. Therefore, the translator must know the purpose and the target audience of any text that is to be translated. The best way for the customer to clarify that is by providing the vendor with a translation brief.


What is a translation brief?

Simply put, a translation brief is a set of instructions that the customer gives to their translator. The brief should clarify the purpose, and the target audience, and as provide details about the source text. This will make it easier to successfully render the text into one or more target languages. The translation brief helps the customer to systemize and clarify their requirements and facilitates the work of the translator/s. Professionals from Quora say: “A translation brief is a set of indications and instructions that are compiled and sent to your translation provider at the beginning of every translation project.”

The translation brief is related to the Skopos theory which says, “employ the prime principle of a purposeful action that determines a translation strategy.” The idea of the translation brief is well accepted by everybody engaged in translation.

A translation brief is a helpful tool that outlines the specifications of a certain translation project. It can be used regardless of the topic, format, or type of service needed.


Which are the main elements of a translation brief?

A translation brief can be quite brief or rather long in size depending on the customer's needs. A translation brief may comprise only two-three sentences specifying the language combination, the deadline, and the main goals of the translation project. In other cases, however, it may contain several elements that can help the translator achieve the desired results.

While the combination of the translation brief elements may vary, there are some that are almost always present. We can list nine aspects of the translation brief that will facilitate the translation process and improve the overall quality of the translated text:

  1. Language combinations are always present in a translation brief. The customer specifies the source language and the possible target language/s. If there is more than one target language the customer may give the order into which the text is to be translated or if any language should be a priority.
  2. Providing a deadline is another essential component of the translation brief. The LSP should confirm whether or not this is feasible.
  3. The volume of the project should be mentioned so that the translation provider can estimate the workload.
  4. The target audience determines the stylistic formation of the translated text and the level of localization that will be needed.
  5. The customer should specify the layout and format requirements for the translated text. In some cases, layouts may differ, and then it is essential for this specification to be clearly stated in the translation brief.
  6. The customer should give the context of the target file and list the translation priorities for every given translation project. The translator can then better fulfill the customer's requirements without having to answer additional questions for clarification.
  7. The source files are very useful if included in the translation brief. They help translators learn more about the content of the document and better render it in the target language/s.
  8. Any reference materials that are mentioned in the target text should be included in the translation brief. They help translators translate the references and reference notes in the source text without having to guess which the source is.
  9. Last but not least comes a glossary of any specific terminology adopted by the customer. Such a glossary helps for the consistency of the currently translated text with any previous or future translations.

The more elements a translation brief contains the easier the translation process will go. There will always be some details that need to be additionally clarified but a detailed translation brief will minimize them.


Why is a translation brief important?

A translation brief helps to determine how workable a given text is. In other words, it lets the translator know all of the project details. Is it website localization or educational material translation? Does the text target teenagers or adults? What is the required format for the translated content? Are there any legal requirements that need to be additionally implemented in the translated text? It shows which translation service is to be used, how much localization will be needed, or if transcreation and multilingual desktop publishing will be necessary.

A well-structured translation brief results in a well-translated text. It may even eliminate the necessity of a Q&A session prior to the translation project. This is especially important now during COVID-19 when in-person contact is limited and all businesses try to maintain safe office space.

A translation brief does not substitute any form of communication between the customer and the language service provider. It gives the overall framework for any questions or additional requirements that emerge and will need to be addressed in a timely fashion. Keeping open communication channels contributes to high-quality translations and is a sign of vendor reliability.


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