Communication is the key to a successful document translation

When translating documents, the quality of the source document is directly related to the time it takes to translate it. Source document quality is also tied to the cost of translation and the speed and expense of translating similar documents in the future. One key to successful source document translation is the level of communication between the author and the translator.

A Translator’s View of Source Documentation

When a translator looks at your source documents, they do not see them the same way that you do. You see a completed story or presentation, a fluent document that flows seamlessly from start to end. Translators see a raw document containing thousands of words and phrases to be identified, contextualized, and replaced with words and phrases that make sense in another language. They see flowery language, idioms, and colloquialisms as a handicap to effective translation. Creative use of terminology amounts to hours of extra work to obtain requisite target language consistency.

Many source language examples are likely going to be lost on your target language audience. Buzz words and abbreviations will need to be altered, explained, and likely removed and replaced by explanatory phrases. Further, tables and graphs with embedded graphics and limited space may need to be altered due to the compression or expansion of the target language text.

In short, when a translator looks at the source documents, they tear them apart lexically, culturally, graphically, and contextually. They break down your terminology, symbols, and signs, and try to ensure there is unity throughout the document.

Translation Consistency

The translator is the key to ensuring your text says what is supposed to in the target language. You are the key to the information. After all, it is your data, your text, your content, and nobody knows it better than you do. In order to ensure your translator knows what your document is supposed to mean, you need to have excellent bi-directional communication.

Too often, when documents are submitted for translation, the author just expects a translation to magically appear. There is no expectation of further communication until the document is ready for pick-up. This may be okay if you are translating a flyer for an office party, but if your documents have critical information, you do not want to entrust them to somebody that may not fully comprehend your message.

One caveat: you must ensure that your translator has native-level fluency in the source and target languages as well as field-specific knowledge in the content area. This way, when you talk with your translator they will have the requisite knowledge to understand what you are talking about. Just try to explain the relationships between various chemical compositions of a pharmaceutical to a person who has no knowledge of the field, the signs, the symbols, or the specialized language associated the pharmacology.

Translation Memory and Style Guides

Creating a translation memory database and a translation style guide will help ensure there is consistency in your translation.

The translation memory is a database that stores “segments” of translated text. Therefore, these segments (sentences, paragraphs, phrases, and the like) do not have to be translated from scratch each time they come up in a text. You can save immeasurable time in translation and post-editing by working with your translator early on to define any specialized words they may not know.

A style guide is a template for addressing the way you want your document to look and feel. From cultural and linguistic difficulties to variances in format and structure between the languages. A style guide gives the translator an example to follow to ensure consistency is maintained in your text as well as future documents you may have translated.

The author Zorka Hereford once noted, “Without effective communication, a message can turn into error, misunderstanding, frustration, or even disaster by being misinterpreted or poorly delivered.” Don’t let this be your experience with your translator, a little communication goes a long, long way.

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