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Seven tips for HR translation

By Hilary Picken | March 22, 2019 | Featured Top Tens Translation Tips

Sevent tips for HR translation

Do you work in HR for an international business? If so, you may be tasked with developing internal employee communications and learning platforms, for implementation around the world. These projects involve many steps and many stakeholders before the end product is ready for rolling out.

And for that, you’ll need translation. At The Language Factory we are experienced in working with international organisations as they build and implement training programmes for employees around the world. And we advise that if you expect translation to be a requirement at the end of your project, you should consider the requirements of it at the beginning.

Here are seven suggestions to help ensure that when you do go-global, your material is understandable, unambiguous and works on every platform, in every language.


1. 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.


2. 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.


3. 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*. But it’s a difficult phrase to translate. Where possible, we find it’s best to avoid using colloquial or regional expressions.

[*A mug of tea and slice of toast, in Cockney]


4. 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?


5. 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.


6. 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.


7. 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 on +44 (0)1727 862722 or enquiries@thelanguagefactory.co.uk.