When was the last time you forgot your wedding anniversary?
Or you sent an email to the wrong person?
Or you went to pay for your shopping but couldn’t remember your PIN number?
That sinking feeling when you realise that you’ve screwed up, it never seems to get any better, does it? Well, don’t give yourself a hard time, because you’re certainly not the only one to forget stuff.
If we believe the marketing, it’s easy to think that businesses work like well-oiled machines. The bigger and more profitable the company, the more efficient it’s supposed to be. All the bases are covered. Nothing is forgotten.
The reality is often very different.
You would be surprised and shocked at how many highly organised teams reach an important project milestone, only for someone to realise that they’ve forgotten to include the translation stage.
Everything else has been meticulously planned apart from what might seem to be the most blindingly obvious – translation for the target market.
So the project gets put on hold… The mad rush begins… Frantically searching Google for a translation company… Phew!
But you pick the agency that promises a super-fast turnaround at an unbelievable price, because you’re now under pressure to land the project on time. Off go the files and back comes the translation.
Project delivered with only a short delay.
Only to find out later that they’ve rushed the job and the translation isn’t up to scratch. The in-market reviewers are upset. The local branch is furious. Your customers are leaving negative feedback.
Back to square one. Money wasted.
Maybe Sarah on reception could translate it, she has an A level in Spanish (or French/ German/ Italian) from 10 years ago?
I’ve seen this happen so many times.
But just like every other aspect of a project, the translation phase requires planning, time and money.
That’s why it’s important to:
1. consider translation at the start of the project
2. include a translation professional in the project team
3. choose a translation partner carefully, rather than going with the first thing Google suggests.
So let's look at each of these in turn...
1. Consider translation at the start of the project
When the project is being set up, think about all the elements of the project that require a translation. This includes any text, images, diagrams, audio-visual resources or interface content.
These will reflect the elements created in English, so if the content creation involved several teams working together, then it's likely the translation will also need some input from those teams.
Each element needs to be costed and scheduled into the project plan. If it took your content creators months to create, review and obtain sign-off for the product, why do you think it will only take a few days to translate it?
Translation is a process, a workflow. And that means it'll take some team work to get it done.
The translator might have questions, spot inconsistencies or errors, or need clarification to ensure the translation is fit for purpose.
You might need an in-house reviewer to make sure the tone of voice is consistent with your brand and style guidelines.
It takes time to recreate the different visual elements of the project.
Why invest so much in content creation only to make a hash of it in the translation phase? It makes no sense.
2. Include a translation professional in the project team
I get it, when the creative juices are flowing, some great ideas bubble up to the surface. But that doesn’t always make for a great translation.
If you include a professional translator in your project team, you’ll have someone who can tell you what will work and what won’t.
The translator can:
advise on the elements of the project that will increase or reduce the project cost, scale and timeframe
remind you of things that need to be included in the translation (for example, text on graphs and illustrations)
suggest things that will work better in the target languages (for example, does the target culture prefer dubbing or subtitles on videos?)
help you avoid cultural misunderstandings.
You can’t expect your project team to know these things if they aren’t involved in the translation industry, so include a translator.
3. Choose a translation partner carefully, don’t just pick the first one listed on Google
Every translation agency will try and convince you that they are the most professional, cost-effective, speedy service out there.
They all say they use the best linguists. They all claim to have excellent quality assurance processes.
But translation is largely an unregulated industry, so you need to think about what you want:
Do you want a relationship that’s transactional or collaborative?
Is your agency contact just looking for a quick sale or do they listen carefully to your requirements?
Is the price too good to be true? Then it probably is.
Does the timeframe for delivery seem reasonable, considering what we’ve already mentioned?
Have they asked you for sample or reference materials, for example, a glossary, style guide or list of images they can refer to?
Do they propose regular catch-ups to discuss the project, ask for clarification, and share suggestions?
The interaction with the agency throughout the entire project should give you a clue to the type of agency you’re using, and if you can rely on them.
These are only a few suggestions that will help you avoid the pitfalls and complexities of translation. Keep reading the blog for future posts on how translation can work for your business.
And, don’t be the dummy in the room that forgot about the translation!
Because when you’ve got great content or products you want to share them with your clients, translation can help you do that.