SimulTrans Localization Blog: SimulTips

Common Documentation Translation Speedbumps

[fa icon="calendar"] February 4, 2014 / by the SimulTrans Team

Do you have a technical manual, medical Instructions for Use (IFU), or marketing document that needs to be translated? Tight deadlines? Complex material? Multiple drops of small batches of words?

This article seeks to explore some of the most common issues that occur when companies look to localize their documentation. From delivering the files to the translation vendor to receiving the files back from your vendor in a fully localized format, we will explore the different potential problems you might find as you navigate this process.

Uploading files—the FTP solution

Many times if your document is larger than 5 or 10MB, it is too big to send via email. The fastest way for you to send it and for the vendor to receive it is to upload the file to a secure FTP site. Ask your vendor about this option to speed up the upload time on your end.

SimulTrans also hosts the Localization Vault service, providing secure file transfers through a browser client. Make sure to date each drop in a separate folder in order to keep versioning issues to a minimum.

Format of files for translation—prep work you can do to lower your costs and turnaround time

Make sure to deliver the files to your localization vendor in an editable format. This means avoid PDFs whenever possible, and be sure to include layered graphics and all fonts with the files you send. If screen captures are involved, you will want to supply your vendor with a running version of the localized software so they can go through and quickly recreate the screen captures.  The vendor can do all this work manually, but it will cost you time and money that you could save by doing a small amount of upfront work in gathering the source files.

Complex material—it’s glossary time

You have many company-specific terms and phrases that need to be translated right, every time. You want to make absolutely sure that the phrase is saying what it needs to say, especially if your client is very particular. The solution to this type of critical translation: a translated glossary.

Give your vendor a list of commonly used terms and phrases with their definitions, and the vendor can translate this glossary first before moving on to the real translation. Two upsides to the glossary: 1. You and your in-country client reviewer can review the glossary prior to translation to approve the style of the translation, and 2. The approved glossary will serve as a style guide for the rest of the translations, in addition to the core phrases that are translated within it.  The one downside to glossaries is the turnaround time needed, so be sure to budget extra time for glossary approval from your in-country reviewer.

Multiple drops—how to turn the minor tweak syndrome into a healthy habit

Not all documents can be finalized prior to translation, localization vendors get that, and we see it all the time. The question is not how to avoid multiple drops altogether, but it’s how to minimize the negative effect to your budget and delivery schedule. The easiest way to avoid minimum charges and problematic adjustments to cost and schedule is to deliver the drops during translation. Once the files have been put in translation, it does not matter if a couple hundred words are added or tweaked here and there. The costly aspect comes when additions and changes come post-translation, when the document is already in Publishing/Formatting/Quality Assurance stages.

If you do have to tweak a document once it’s in the final stages of formatting, expect to pay more for the changes in both time and money. The best way to avoid that extra charge is to let your vendor know as soon as you can that there will be extra sentences or paragraphs coming or changes being made, so we can postpone translation and delay formatting until the files are finalized.

In the document—super-size boxes

Often documents have text boxes or call-outs within the layout. These boxes generally depend on and refer to the surrounding text. If you are not careful, the text expansion due to translation could be too much for your text box to accommodate, and you will end up with truncated text, or worse, having to over-abbreviate the translation to compensate for lack of space. Avoid this common pitfall by creating text boxes with plenty of room for growth and expansion.

In the document—writing for a global audience

Remember that certain styles of writing in English will not come across the same in a foreign language.  It is important for you to remind your technical publications or marketing communications writers to keep the global audience in mind when writing the document. Avoid colloquial expressions, strive for neutral English, and remember that simpler is generally better.

Deliverables—it’s time to get specific!

When asking for deliverables from your vendor, the more detailed you can be with your preferences, the better for everyone. Do you need the files to come with both high-resolution and lower-resolution PDFs?  Do you have conditional text and need two different outputs as deliverables? Did you give us the files in InDesign CS3 and need the delivered files in CS5? Perhaps you’re writing for European audiences and need A4 sized paper. The best way to get what you need back from your vendor is to be as specific as possible when requesting the translation.

The more you know about the localization process, the smoother the project will go for both your team and the localization vendor. So just remember, when in doubt, ask your localization Account Manager or Project Manager for best practices. Chances are, the issue or question you’re facing has come up many times before, and there is a practical solution that will save you precious time and money.


Topics: Documentation Translation, Translation Services

the SimulTrans Team

Written by the SimulTrans Team

SimulTrans provides software, document, and website localization services, translating text into over 100 languages. Established in 1984, SimulTrans has enabled thousands of businesses to provide high-quality content to their international customers. Management ownership allows an exclusive focus on customers and quality, as exemplified by ISO 9001 and ISO 17100 certifications. In addition to its headquarters in Mountain View, California, SimulTrans has offices in Boston, Dublin, London, Paris, Bonn, and Tokyo.