Archive for the ‘Quality’ Category

Translation is (Not) a Team Sport

October 25, 2012

Usually, translators sit alone at their desks while reading a text in one language and hammering it down on their keyboards in another language. Of course, they use their terminology databases, reference texts, background material, etc., etc. But, essentially, a translator receives her/his text from a client, gets it done and sends it back. All necessary clarifications happen between two people.

But what if the text is too long for one person to translate within the given time constraints? For example, a user documentation of 3000 pages or more? Almost a year’s work for one person. So, what to do?

Easy: hack the text in small chunks and distribute it among, say, fifteen translators. They get it done in a couple of weeks.

But, wait a minute. What about consistency? What about terminology? Will all of them use the same word for the same thing?

In all projects where more than one translator is involved some preparatory work is necessary before the text is split up between the members of the translation team:

  • Terminology analysis of the complete text
  • Research and definition of consistent terms and words
  • Identification of repeated phrases and sentences
  • Prior translation of repeated phrases and sentences to avoid inconsistencies
  • Careful segmentation of the text to avoid logical overlaps

Such translation projects are best managed by an experienced translator, who takes care of the up-front analysis and segmentation.

Consistent terminology increases usability and translation quality


Five Easy Steps to Quality Translations

December 13, 2010
  1. Plan the translation well ahead
  2. see also:
    Who Writes the Source Texts?
    Special Ops – When Translation is Not Enough

  3. Find an experienced translator specialized in the subject matter
  4. see also:
    Your Unknown Translator
    The Cheap vs. the Quality Translation
    The Translator’s Mind – Part III, Translation Training

  5. Define usage, target group and geography for the foreign-language text
  6. see also:
    Specialists and Generalists
    International English

  7. Assign a competent contact person in-house to answer the translator’s question
  8. see also:
    The SME and the Translator

  9. Allow enough time for translation
  10. see also:
    Time and Error
    How Much How Fast?

If you follow these minimum requirements your translation will at least get a chance to have acceptable quality.


No Questions Asked

October 5, 2010

Some translators work like secret agents or as if they were trading contraband.

They quietly receive the source text from the client, confirm the client’s deadline without hesitation, let themselves be drawn into haggling about the price and then keep absolute radio silence until delivery.

Weird, hm?

When s/he works in a professional way, your translator should act like your family doctor. S/he should carefully inquire where it hurts and and when and how. Your translator should be as inquisitive and interested in your case as your trusted lawyer. Translators should do everything to protect their clients from linguistic harm.

In translation terms, translators should ask their clients everything there is to know about the text and the client’s desires surrounding the text. They must at least find out what the text will be used for, by whom, when and where.

If they don’t, accurate translation is not possible.

Writing English for Non-English Audiences

October 28, 2009

A common reply I get after I tell my usual story about text quality, research work during translation and the necessity of a SME (subject matter expert) to clarify questions is: “The audience are not English native speakers. So, the translation need not be so precise.”


Actually this is a common mistake. And, actually, nothing could be more wrong…


The Free Test Translation

October 1, 2009

This is a very frequent request by clients: “Please translate this text as a test for us to evaluate” or “Please analyze this translation whether it requires proofreading or revisions”.

A little rule of thumb:

A translator who agrees to do free work usually is not confident enough in his/her skills to insist on adequate payment for his/her services. So why would anyone trust such a translator to do a good job?

If you want to evaluate the quality of a translator’s work up front, ask for credentials with relevant samples. Most professional translators have a collection of client-authorized sample projects that they will be happy to provide on request.

Good service has its price. So, please don’t humiliate your translator by asking him/her to do unpaid work.


Time and Error

August 24, 2009

Don’t expect a 500 pages document to be translated within 2 days unless you are willing to coordinate the work of about 30 translators. Remember how long it took to write the source text in the first place.

A rule of thumb is: One standard page takes about one hour, give or take 15 minutes. Provided the text is of a general nature and not too technical, of course (I will write about technical texts in some future entry…).

So, in a nutshell, you can expect to get about 10 pages of text with average difficulty translated per day by one individual. If you ask the person to do more in the same time, quality will drop. Inevitably.

quality rules