Unless being clued into localization comes as part of your job and you have made it your business to know all there is to know, chances are you’ve been burned by a few of the most common mistakes or misconceptions that lead to inconsistent or poor translation quality. Even the experts have gained their knowledge of how to avoid costly mistakes, because of exactly that; learning from costly mistakes. After all, if everyone were an expert, the localization industry wouldn’t be the $36 billion giant it is today.
If you’re one of the lucky ones who has yet to fall into the traps of your predecessors, then you’ve come to the right place, and you’ll be armed and ready to notice all the common pitfalls that we, in the localization industry have a tendency to think that everyone is aware of (sorry!).
Stop seeing translation as a ‘bit on the side’
The number one mistake made, which leads to most other mistakes, is viewing translation as simply another commodity. Assign a budget, send the files, get them translated and the content is ready for our global audience… ok let’s get it over with.
Not so fast... In order to achieve a high level of quality and consistency across all your products, it is important to weave translation and localization into the fabric of your company, and to see it as not only another thing that you buy as part of your job, but endeavour to develop a relationship with your language partner, view them as colleagues and see the process of translating your content as an integral part of your everyday business operations. Once you stop viewing translating your content as a conveyor belt, you will automatically develop an interest in learning about localization and will enjoy working along side your translation team, both focusing on quality as the common goal.
Cost of an investment vs. cost of your weekly grocery (there’s a reason for the difference)
As painful as it may be to go against our human nature… I mean, who doesn’t love a bargain? Getting as much bang for your buck is more about the quality of the content you are receiving than about how many words can be purged out at the cheapest rate. If you read a lot about translation, you’ve probably heard this a million times, so much so that you’ve begun to interpret this advice as a way for language service providers to justify charging high rates. People often view translation as an unnecessary cost, and if there is any way to cut corners, do it. Yes, hiring a group of native speakers to work on a project for several weeks may save on costs up front, but only professional translators have the skill and expertise and not to mention the sufficient tools to produce a quality, consistent result.
Have you thought about if cheaper translation options are actually providing you with real value for money? Professional translation can be costly, but you know what’s even more expensive? The several rounds of reviews to fix errors which could have been avoided if well chosen professionals had been involved from the beginning, or the amount of revenue you miss out on because of mistranslated material which is incorrect or unappealing to your target market. Translators are highly skilled, and they work extremely hard to succeed in a highly competitive industry, working tirelessly to perfect their art. With language ever evolving and the localization industry moving at lightning speed to keep up with globalization demands, working with experts will keep you one step ahead of your competitors. Once you start viewing translation as an investment, the benefits will soon outweight the costs.
Watch out for poorly written source text
You may have decided to invest time and money in selecting a translation agency to work with, only for them to ask you… “that text you want us to translate from Italian to Greek, are you sure it was written by a native speaker?”. You would be surprised how often this issue crops up, where the source text hasn’t been written by a native speaker or is just poorly written in general. When you work with a translator, they will of course point out that the text isn’t ready to be translated. However, if you have content written in a language that you don’t understand, it is a good idea to check who the content has been written by and if you feel a review is necessary, have this done and the text re-written properly before you consider having it translated. If you have content which needs to be localized in time for a specific launch date, it will cause a significant set back having it re-written, or modified by your translation vendor. Just another factor to bear in mind and watch out for.
Third party reviews aren’t a ploy to get more money out of you
"Why would we need someone else to look over a translation that you have done? Aren’t you confident that your translations are good enough"
Here's another way to look at it; a translator translates and proofreads his translated text, he’s pretty happy with it and that’s fine. However, here’s where the beauty of language and its many styles and nuances comes in to play. The flexibility of language reflects our cultural background, our personalities and preferences, meaning that despite grammatical rules, us humans have developed our languages in a way which allows for very few constraints. So in order to make sure that your content will resonate well in its target audience, having a non-partial native speaker review a document will point out any tweaks that need to be made that the translator may have overlooked according to his style and preference. Third party reviews aren’t there to point out mistakes, but to look at a text from a different perspective, acting as the eyes of the target audience and suggesting any improvements that could be made before the finished product is released. This doesn’t mean that the translator’s work is incorrect, it just comes down to a matter of preference and style. The ultimate goal should always be to optimise your content for global readiness and third party reviews are a way of doing exactly that.
Adhering to the source text is important
If you have an in-house reviewer look at a translation before it is published, it is important that they use the source text as a reference and are constantly referring to this before making any changes or suggestions. Loose correspondence to the source text by reviewers can cause a lot of headaches for translators, because they have based their translation on adherence to the source text as much as possible, yet the reviewer is making suggestions which contradict this. If a reviewer is not given the same guidelines as the translator, this will lead to inconsistent terminology, and confusion about best practice and style for future projects, resulting in costly re-work and an extended schedule. It is also very important to keep the same reviewer where possible for the same reasons as mentioned in my point above about different language styles depending on the person.
Figuring out what works for you can be difficult and although trial and error helps to point out what not to do, a bit of advice goes a long way in keeping you on track. Keep these points in mind and you'll be on your way to making informed decisions about your translation process and achieving better quality translations in no time.
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