Translation review has earned a reputation as a necessary evil. Necessary in the sense that skipping it would feel like a quality assurance sin; evil in the sense that it refuses to conform to any predictable timelines.
The best way to make peace with this paradox is to get more translations right the first time and limit the need for review whenever possible. But if you think translators are the only ones who can control this fate, you may be vastly underestimating your influence.
Get Your House In Order
Sunlight is a powerful disinfectant, and nothing throws the curtains open on your communication strategy quite like translation. Careless errors, confusing phrases, and awkward idioms have nowhere to hide when making the leap from one language to another — it’s merely a question of who will find them first.
Expecting translators to identify these issues and interpret your intended meaning is a dangerous game. If and when they guess incorrectly, they’ll either pass an unnecessary burden onto reviewers or an ineffective message onto readers. So really, the recipe for accuracy and efficiency needs to start with an internal inspection of content clarity.
Correct your typos, rework clumsy wording, and limit cultural references you know won’t travel well. Also, take note of any company- or industry-specific terms that frequently appear in your content. Use translation as an opportunity to update (or create) a brand glossary that will benefit all of your creative collaborators.
Once your source text is clean enough to send to a translator, the final thing to do is clarify your intentions for that content.
Does the text need to drive conversions or simply educate visitors?
Are translators expected to mirror your phrasing or add some local flavor?
Should they communicate a certain level of subject matter expertise?
These kinds of questions need to be asked and answered to recruit the right people and establish appropriate parameters.
Invite Translators Inside
Keeping translators on the periphery of your business plans is no way to treat someone tasked with relaying your brand message to the world. These creative partners need an intimate understanding of your organization in order to do their best work.
At a linguistic level, the brand glossary described above should be collaboratively completed with agreed-upon translations for the necessary terms. Translators will also need access to a style guide that helps them communicate your message with the proper tone. This context can be crucial when trying to select the ideal translation from several plausible alternatives.
The soul of a business is rarely represented in grammatical guidance alone, though. Transforming your translators from contracted vendors into trusted partners requires a deeper level of immersion.
Encourage your translators to explore your website or download your app. Give them a personalized product demo or ship them a test version. Introduce them to a long-time customer or invite them to a company event.
This uncommon transparency will pay dividends on a daily basis as translators leverage their newfound business fluency to make the best possible decisions for your brand.
Invest In Their Success
Clarifying your content and communicating its broader purpose allows translators to begin their work at a distinct advantage. But if you’re serious about improving their accuracy rates, you should be asking questions about their methods as well.
A surprising number of translators are still plying their trade with an antique toolkit. They receive their client’s content as plain text pasted into a spreadsheet and they scroll through hundreds of rows placing their translations in the adjacent cells. Once finished, they’ll save the spreadsheet and email it to a project manager who can pass it on to an editor.
This workflow creates at least three problems that should concern you.
Even if there are dozens of identical phrases within the source content, the translator has to manually enter the appropriate translation for each instance. Not only does this redundant work waste time, it drains focus and needlessly increases the risk of accidentally varying the translation as well.
Second, debating translations via email is an especially painful process. Project managers are forced to play middleman between linguistics, reviewers struggle to articulate their points, and issues can sit idle for days waiting for one person to open their inbox.
Lastly, relegating content to a spreadsheet offers translators no visual context whatsoever. They won’t know where phrases sit on the website, if there is a translation character limit, or whether “watch” was intended as a noun or verb in Cell A43. And you can be sure that at least a portion of their best guesses will inevitably be incorrect.
The chaos that comes from these inefficiencies is often what inspires frustrated brands to arm their translators with more modern technology. But not every investment creates similar returns.
At a minimum, you’ll want your translators working with a computer-assisted translation (CAT) tool. This simple technical solution eliminates the problem of redundant work by automatically applying approved translation pairs to identical phrases within your content. This concept of translation memory helps ensure reviewer’s rulings are consistently followed in all future instances.
The full potential of a CAT tool won’t be revealed, however, without integration into a dedicated translation management system (TMS). These specialized platforms pull all translation work away from individual inboxes and spreadsheets, allowing everyone to collaborate in a shared space. The resulting real-time communication makes it much easier for linguists to discuss issues before they lead to errors and resolve corrections quickly.
Only a select few TMSs solve the problem of visual context, however. Some enable translators to reference static screenshots, other give editors a preview pane, but only one makes the end user’s perspective a dynamic part of the translator’s interface. And by making all these visual cues available to translators from the start, you’ll dramatically increase the odds of them submitting spotless work to reviewers.
See how Smartling customers treat their translators to a better experience with improved visual context.