5 golden rules for businesses
When considering having business documentation translated, it is
easy to be tempted by shortcuts to ‘simplify’ or cut the cost of the
process. But when translating external communications - and a great
deal of internal communication too - businesses need to remember that failing to
translation done professionally can all too
easily lead to brand damage, misunderstanding, lost opportunity,
unanticipated additional cost - and even offence. To help businesses understand the
issues at stake and make the right choice, we have drawn up the
following five-point plan:
Don’t be tempted by Aunt Agnes!
Be cautious of machine translations
If you need a professional, only use one translating into his or
her native tongue
Ask for credentials
As ever, cheapest does not mean best
We use ‘Aunt Agnes’ to personify the ‘do-it-yourself’ approach
to translation. For sure, there are occasions when it’s
acceptable to use someone you know who has knowledge of a
particular language to help you out. But in the vast majority of
cases - especially if they are translating out of their own
language into another - this will never do. The
risks of looking and sounding
foolish are just too great. If there is any danger of exposure to your
business, think about using a professional services provider.
‘Machine translation’ is where text is copied and pasted into a
website and translated automatically at the push of a button (eg
Translate). Again, there are plenty of occasions where this
is adequate, such as when you want to get the gist of something
written in a foreign language, and in that respect these
services are improving all the time. However, if you need to
understand a foreign business contract, or you want to send some
documentation to a potential client abroad, you need clarity and
precision - and for that you need a human translator!
Translation is not just about transposing words from one
language into another in roughly the same order. It is about understanding the nuances,
getting the register right (a shop floor promotion uses language
very differently than a boardroom presentation) and, most
the culture you are writing for. The only way to do this is
to use an experienced translator who is translating into his or her native
tongue - and ideally living in-country as well.
Any self-respecting professional translator will be happy to
provide evidence of their experience. This will be in the
form of a translation qualification, membership of a recognised
translation organisation (ITI
and IOL in the UK),
references, examples of work, evidence of a number of years’
experience as a translator, and ideally a good number of years
working in an industry that is relevant to what you want (few
mechanical engineers make good legal translators). A good translation agency will have a large number of
linguists on their books and will choose the individual(s)
appropriate for your needs.
Finally, as in any industry, if you want the job done properly,
you need to expect to pay a competitive rate. Translation
pricing is usually based on the number of words in the original
document or file. This price should cover the entire translation
process, and this needs to consist of a number of stages.
Translation of the document by a qualified, mother-tongue
Independent review/checking and proofreading of the translation
by a second translator
Resolution of any issues arising from the review
Final QA of the translation by a competent and experienced
translation project manager.
It’s rarely possible to do this well for less than £80 per 1000
words, so if you are being offered translation services for
substantially less than this, ask yourself where they are cutting
the costs. It will inevitably involve lower quality translations,
produced in haste - and unchecked - by unqualified translators. This
is commonly achieved by using linguists based in countries with
lower costs of living (although you will probably not be made aware
of this). Fine if the languages you are looking for are native to
those countries, but all too often they are not.
Your business’ reputation is too valuable to waste on cutting a few
corners - especially where the potential of foreign markets is
involved. Don’t take unnecessary risks, talk to a professional
languages service provider first.
For more on this subject, see this
excellent guide to choosing a translator from the American
Talk to Languages Today about translation
for your business.