Five Ways Technology Can Help You Achieve High-Quality Translation

In my industry, we talk about this a lot: high-quality translation. Here are five steps to achieving the best translation quality.

Use the Right Translators

Start with skilled, experienced, professional translators, native in the target language, and with expertise in the content category. Insist on a transparent relationship between you and the translator, so the translator can directly ask questions or make suggestions. Simply knowing the name of the person who is translating your content and that their name will be associated with the final product — rather than a large, opaque translation agency — is often incentive for the translator to do his or her best work.

And of course, make sure you pay appropriate professional rates — a translator making $0.03 per word, operating at 100% capacity every day, makes only $15,000 per year. This is probably not who you want leading the charge for your company’s global brand.

Use Appropriate Workflows

Some content, such as marketing content, should be translated by a translator, edited by a separate translator, and finally proofread by a native speaker (without seeing the original text), to ensure quality output. Other content, such as blogs, may just follow a single-step workflow. Still other content, such as support or technical documentation, might be translated by computers and then edited by humans. Using the correct translation workflow for different types of content produces the right levels of quality, cost, and performance.

Translate in Context

Context is critical to understanding how a word or phrase will be used, and is thus absolutely essential to proper translation. Without context, it’s impossible to know if “Home” is a link to the home page, or where a purchase should be shipped. Similarly, “Cancel” might mean cancelling a subscription or dismissing an alert on a web page. A perfect translation, but without the proper understanding of the content, can lead to embarrassing results.

Further, some languages take up more space in a document or on the screen than other languages. More letters mean that text may not fit on buttons, or may overlap with other text or images. Translating and reviewing in context removes any ambiguity about a particular word or phrase, and allows the translator to see exactly how the text will appear in the final document, web page, or mobile app. Only Smartling offers the most comprehensive contextual translation interfaces, ensuring that your website, documents, and mobile app are properly translated and look great in all languages.

Stay on Brand

Maintain a style guide for the organization’s global brand guidelines, and ensure all translations conform to the guidelines. Who is the audience you are addressing? Is your brand voice formal or informal? Is it appropriate to use abbreviations? Answering these questions (and more) in a comprehensive style guide allows the translators to conform to your organization’s global brand.

Equally important is building and maintaining a glossary of the most important words, phrases, and key terms for your organization, products, and services, and ensuring these terms are always translated consistently. These terms essentially become the DNA of your content, the building blocks to high-quality, consistent content across all languages.

Software can help harvest the initial set of terms, suggest new terms as new content is created, and ensure proper usage of key terminology. Not only will a proper style guide and glossary ensure consistent translation quality, it also forms the basis of your organization’s global brand, international SEO, and inbound marketing.

Use Translation Memory

Organizations tend to translate similar text over and over, with minor changes. How often does the boilerplate text on your company’s press release change? Do you really need to translate the same text, for use in the same context, more than once?

For instance, you may have a 50-word paragraph of text that was previously translated into 20 languages. With a product update, you may need to change only a few words of that text. Translation memory technology can identify the change and present it to translators, so they need to translate only for that minor edit. Maintaining a centralized translation memory ensures that translations are turned around faster, at a lower cost, and with quality that matches your existing translation memory.

Every item above is critical to high-quality translation. Remove even one of these steps and you might as well be blindly throwing your content over a wall, and hoping for the best.

About Jack Welde

Jack is a technology early-adopter, serial entrepreneur, software patent-holder, product evangelist and combat-decorated Air Force pilot. Before starting Smartling, he served as SVP Product at eMusic and COO/CTO at SheSpeaks and RunTime Technologies. He also co-founded Trio Development, a software company that created the first Personal Information Manager, which was sold to Apple in the mid ’90s. He holds a BS in Computer Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, where he also studied linguistics and interned with Professor William Labov, and a MBA from Cameron University in Germany. Jack was named one of Fast Company’s “Who’s Next” in 2011, and was named a 2013 NYC Venture Mentor by the New York City Economic Development Corporation.