How to reduce translations risks?

Right or wrong, translation has taken a path to commoditization over the last decade or two. Business literature often describes commoditization as "the process by which goods that have economic value and are distinguishable in terms of attributes end up becoming simple commodities in the eyes of the market". We could add "in the eyes of the consumers" or, in the translation field, "purchasing managers". While the above may hold true as a result of a general globalization trend that commoditizes services and products, the production translation services is still far being commoditized With this in mind, it is extremely important that translation projects, interpreting services, voiceovers, are not prematurely sent into production without first assessing pre-project processes and availability of translation assets. Just like in any engineering discipline or process, planning during the initial setup stages greatly reduces risks in language translation services. Time spent in project preparation (or risk management) will lead in most cases leads to more quality translationsThere are methods which can make events more predictable.  The more predictable an event, the lesser the translation risk because the occurrence can prevented or mitigated.

hands pointing to stars as a means of rating system

As it happens in any discipline, cooperation and involvement of all key stakeholders is the key to success in translation projects.

Align Client Review / Translator

The foundation of all well run translation projects is to align the expectations of the client as a user and reviewer of the translation service and the needs of the translator to provide a quality translation service. This is a key factor in maintaining project harmony and avoiding translation risks. The expectations of the translation buyer and the expectations of the translation team must be aligned in the very initial stages. If the project is of a certain size or is going to last for a long period of time,
  • pre-project calls,
  • the creation and approval of glossaries starting from existing literature,
  • style guides as a result of test translations to establish a fix review period,
are essential - particularly in the case of new accounts.  Translation projects have a much greater chance of going smoothly if the process is pre-defined and agreed before starting, especially when client review will take place in the destination country by agents who have not been involved in the translation process or in the case of notoriously subjective languages.  

Terminology Glossaries

Terminology Glossaries help with consistency and accuracy, particularly when translating medical, technical, industrial or company-specific terms. Translators work with a CAT tools, not with word processors. CAT tools are specific to the translation industry and have terminology management features so even a 1-1 word list of correspondences will be of great help. The glossary functions in CAT tools will automatically suggest (or enforce) a particular term. For example, variants of verb forms, declensions for inflective languages, plurals, etc., are automatically propagated if the root word is in the database.

Style Guides

Style guides both complement the above terminology glossaries and assist in maintaining consistency of style, reducing any chance of a translator using a preferential tone of voice, phrasing or mode of address during translation. Examples of elements that should be contained in a style guide:
  • Corporate brand identity
  • Product names (if there is a local name for them, for instance)
  • Translation of key terms
  • Tone (formal / informal)
  • Punctuation
  • Spelling
  • Formatting
  • Adaptations
  • Use of verbs, adjectives and superlatives (likes and dislikes)
  • Other miscellaneous elements

Reference Materials

Reference materials are a key component of any translation project. In addition to demonstrating translation style, they provide the additional benefit of giving the linguistic teams a wider and better understanding of the context and the content they are working with and translating. Benefits of providing reference materials:
  • Style guidance
  • Content is understood in context
  • Use of the right terminology in the translations
Types of reference materials:
  • Websites, portals, wikis, microsites
  • Previously translated materials, in doc or PDF format
  • Other associated documents

First-off translation (Alpha version)

The provision of a first-off translation (around 10%) early on in the project enables client review and approval for style and translation quality. Any issues can then be evaluated and preferences changed before the bulk of the work is translated. This would mirror any software development "alpha version", when a very primitive version of the software is released for quality assurance, checking and functionality tests. A first-off translation release is particularly helpful in large translation projects, but also in smaller marketing projects in addition to projects with a high level of creativity or subjectivity. This provision of a small "sample" translation is also highly recommended for new accounts, or when adding new, untested languages to existing accounts. Some of the benefits of providing an early translation sample:
  • Confirmation that style guide is followed
  • Provides a snapshot of terminology glossary adherence
  • Reduces the chances of having to make extensive changes at the end of the project