How to achieve the perfect translation

1. Bring translators in as early as possible

The best translation outputs come from preparing source content for international readers and making sure that the initial text is easy to translate. Once the stage is set for translation, you can focus on the translation process itself and further refine content to suit different audiences.

If you know in advance that translation is likely, bring your translation team in early, as you create your original content. They can provide guidance and advice (or even just a sanity-check) on your content’s style, tone and structure which will ultimately give your communication clarity, impact and understanding among your target audience. 

2. Try to be concise

Ikea can guide you through the most complicated flat-pack wardrobe assembly without a single written instruction. We find that often, less is more. On balance we suggest erring on a modest use of words.

3. Plainly speaking, it’s best to speak plainly

Unambiguous descriptions of processes and procedure translate more clearly and succinctly than editorialised content. Although your source writers may consider this dull or even a little boring, you are creating technical and business literature here, not writing a best-seller.

4. Avoid local dialects, if you can

At The language Factory we enjoy Rosie and Sexton Blake* as much as the next man, but it’s a difficult phrase to translate – even into English. Where possible, we find it’s best to avoid using colloquial or regional expressions.

5. Go easy on the acronyms

Most companies have their own ‘short-hand’. If your source material contains terms or phrases that are ‘company speak’, please make allowances for your translators to be made aware of them and your precise definitions.

6. Consider space

Any Star Trek fan will tell you that “space is the final frontier”. When it comes to publishing, print or onscreen, it often is. Translations often require more, or fewer, characters than their source language. For example, written German might need 30% more characters than written English. Chinese, Japanese and Arabic are written and read differently to western languages. Your page designers may like to know about this in advance.  

7. Share your tone of voice

Arguably the trickiest element to convey. Your company and current employees may familiar with ‘how’ you say things; others may not be. Sharing previous translations and other company documents with your translators helps ensure a match to the tone of voice your company has, and wants to, put across.

8. Allow some leeway

Your translation agency won’t remodel your copy, but it might be a good idea to let them suggest some retouching. For example, if you require formal boardroom style, at The Language Factory we would focus your translation on, and infuse it with, very proper corporate vocabulary. We’ll comb its hair, straighten its tie and ensure that it says ‘business’.

If however you need shop-floor informal, we would ruffle its hair and loosen its tie. The focus would be on using translated day-to-day style text. We’ll make sure you speak plainly.

9. Use just one term to identify a single concept

Synonyms get in the way of clarity. Write the same thing, the same way, every time you write it. Finding different ways to write a single concept will affect the consistency of a translation and may lead to decreased quality, increased cost and increased turnaround time.

10. Be confident and proud

Use the active voice rather than the passive. It’s more direct and better understood. For example, if ‘the software was upgraded by the user’ it was done passively. But, if ‘the user upgraded the software’, that was active.

*It’s Cockney for ‘tea and cake’

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