Six Best Practices for Communicating and Collaborating with Translators

Actively collaborating with translators will set your localization projects up for success from the start.


Translators should be welcomed as an extension of your team. After all, translators are the ones that will be creating your brand's content in an entirely new language.

The translation process is less about replacing words, and more about capturing the intended style, tone and intent of your content -- in an entirely new language.

Therefore, consistent communication and collaboration are critical to providing translators with the feedback they need to deliver high-quality translations.

1. Provide Briefing Documents

Start the relationship off on the right foot with as much introductory information as possible. Translators will need context to understand the direction and value of content - for example, your brand's target audience and demographic information.

Therefore a creative brief outlining the project and its intent will be a valuable resource for translators.

  • With an understanding of who the content is for and the message your brand is attempting to convey, translators can work the content as they see fit, and maintain the same register, or level of formality, that the source content was written in.

Strive to provide complete Linguistic Assets as well, including a Glossary, Style Guide, and if possible a Translation Memory database to guide translators.

2. Encourage Ongoing Communication

Continuous communication will help ensure that content remains on target, and any issues are addressed or ratified before project completion.

  • Provide translators with a direct method of communication - preferably real-time conversations, whether that be a Slack channel or a simple phone call.
  • Encourage routine meetings or collaboration sessions with the translator, preferably as they find necessary, to stay aligned.

With an open dialogue, translators will feel more connected to the project and have the opportunity to reach out for assistance when necessary. Real-time communication will enable translators to ask the questions they need to determine the right path forward, without wasting any time.

3. Recognize the Translator’s Point of View

Translators should be encouraged to ask questions and involve themselves in the content creation process as much as possible.

Try to recognize the translator's point of view: they want to deliver the highest quality content to help your brand reach a new audience with an amazing experience.

  • Encourage translators to ask questions, but also ask translators your own questions.
  • Strive to understand the unique culture of the target market or demographic your content is aimed at.

It will be critical for translators to routinely ask questions. Embrace this collaboration, and provide translators with the feedback they need -- it'll only lead to higher quality results.

4. Work With Translators That Embrace Your Product or Service

Translators are working to recreate your content in a new language, to reach a new audience. Depending on your brand's solution or industry, some content may require specific technical knowledge.

Creative projects also require a level of passion to capture the feel and tone of the brand.

  • Brands can establish their own vetting process to determine if translators understand the concept of your product or service.
  • Working with translators that are familiar with your brand or industry will stop any details from being lost in translation, both figuratively and literally.

Working with a translator that understands and appreciates your brand's product or solution can help ensure translated content that maintains the same level of passion and creativity expressed throughout your source content.

5. Provide Detailed, Actionable Feedback

View the translation as a work in progress, and provide clear direction for the translator to move forward. When editing, clearly note the issues at hand and explain how to solve or workaround that issue.

Translators work best with specific feedback on the sentences, terms or phrases that need to be changed, as well as potential alternatives to utilize. It can also help to distinguish between an error and a mistake within your feedback.

  • Always strive to offer example-based constructive criticism to provide the most useful feedback to translators.
  • Distinguish the difference between an error and a mistake in writing and collaborate effectively to determine the best path forward.

Errors represent a flaw in thinking, while mistakes are simple, one-time issues like spelling errors or misused words. Both will require their approach to resolve, and can easily be handled through example-based constructive feedback.

6. Document Every Step In a Centralized Database

Make sure all of your feedback is documented and stored in a centrally available database. Not everyone has a picture-perfect memory, and there may come a time when a new translator or localization manager picks up where others left off.

  • Stay focused and stay organized with a centralized database for ever piece of content, every translation, and every step taken.
  • Keep records of all communications and collaborative efforts with translators. In the case that project has to be taken over by a new translator, all of your efforts will have been documented.

With a centralized database of feedback and creative briefs, as well as steps that were already taken towards project completion, translators and localization managers will be able to access this history of progress no matter where they are located.

Actively Collaborate With Translators For Success

Both your brand and translators have the same goal in mind: to provide captivating and engaging content. Actively collaborating with translators, and consistently communicating to properly align goals and limitations will enable set your localization projects up for success from the start.

And if things do happen to go wrong, ongoing communication with translators will enable your brand to nip any issues in the bud, and drive the project in the right direction.

Still not convinced? Book a meeting to learn from Smartling’s own Language Services experts!

About Matt

Matt Grech is the Content Marketing Manager at Smartling, responsible for growing Smartling awareness and brand content. As a digital content writer, Matt applies his journalistic lens to content, helping users deepen their understanding of the brand, services and technology provided by Smartling. Matt has previously contributed to an industry leading Unified Communications resource, as well as local newspapers where he developed his unique ability to investigate, interview, and transform complex problems into simple solutions.