7 tips for HR translation

Do you work in global HR or employee training? If so, this scenario may sound familiar.

HR at HQ has been tasked with creating a new employee-focused e-learning platform. Everyone is excited and itching to dive into the project. The plan is to Research – Create Content – Build – Test – Launch locally – Translate and ultimately Roll-Out globally.

In this scenario translation is the penultimate step. It could be several months away. Which could also mean that, at the project’s concept stage, when so many other tasks lay ahead, it’s a step that will be considered later; a bridge to be ‘crossed when we get to it’.

At The Language Factory we’d advise something just a little different. If you know in advance that you are likely to translate your training programme into various languages, it’s a good idea to have requirements of that translation process in mind at the outset, when you create your original content.

Here are 7 suggestions to help ensure that when you do roll-out, your training material is understandable, unambiguous and on-message in every language.

Be concise

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

Use plain speaking 

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.

Avoid colloquial expressions

At The language Factory we enjoy a Toby Jug of Rosie Lee and slice of Holy Ghost as much as the next man. [A mug of tea and slice of toast, in Cockney]. But it’s a difficult phrase to translate into another language – even English. Where possible, we find it’s best to avoid using colloquial or regional expressions.

Consider platforms space vs character count

Any Star Trek fan will tell you that “space is the final frontier”. When it comes to online and e-learning translations they are not wrong. Translations often require more (or fewer) characters than their source language. For example, written German might need 30% more characters than written English. How might this impact the screen layout of an e-learning platform or page setting for an online training module?

Limit company speak

Ever Googled the phrase ‘Definition of HR’? You could have as many as 88 definitions come back; and who’s to say which is most correct. Most companies have their own ‘short-hand’. If your source material contains terms or phrases that are ‘company speak’, please make allowance for your translators to be made aware of them and their precise definitions, as you perceive them. And if possible, include a glossary.

Share your tone of voice with us

Arguably the trickiest element to convey. Your company and employees are familiar with ‘how’ you say things. Sharing previous translations and other company documents with your translators helps ensure a match to the tone of voice your company wants to put across.

Allocate points of contact 

The best HR and employee focused translations are achieved when the company and translators have an ongoing dialogue. Best-practice is to have your documents’ author and an employee familiar with the source material, available for queries and confirmations. This expedites the project and really helps get it right, first time.

If you need translation services for your own global HR and employee training, please contact us at The Language Factory. Our dog and bone number is +44 (0)1727 862722

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