How to get a perfect translation (in a nutshell)

That is actually a walnut in a nutshell, but you get the point.

In this short article I assume that you need a perfect translation, but you are not the person who will do the job. In other words, I am going to present some very basic principles for clients who need translation.

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1. Prepare your materials for translation.

In software development, internationalization is the process of designing a software application so as it can be adapted to various languages and regions without engineering changes. Of course, software localization is pretty complex, as there are a lot of things to consider. To name just a few:

  • left-to-right or right-to-left text,
  • capitalization,
  • local units of measurement,
  • grammar differences,
  • etc.

However, these principles equally apply to many other types of translation. For example, German, Ukrainian or Russian tend to have longer words than English, which means that more space should be provided for these languages at the desktop publishing stage.

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2. Choose a trusted language services provider.

If you think that I will advise you to hire a freelance translator just because I am one, I can assure you this is not the case. The best option for you actually depends on your needs. If you plan to localize your content into many languages, you should hire an agency. But if you plan to localize into a very limited number of languages and have the time to contact the service providers individually, I would pick freelance translators – because you are likely to save money this way! Yes, that is correct, freelance translators often charge less than agencies.

If you hire an individual translator, you would probably want them to have enough experience to handle your project.

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3. Be aware of which service you purchase.

Normally agencies charge more because they offer not just translation, but TEP – Translation, Editing and Proofreading. That means that after the text is translated, the work is not finished. First, an editor analyzes the original and translated texts and corrects mistakes, should any be found. Then another person, a proofreader, analyzes the resulting translation and polishes it, so it would have no flaws in the target language.

That said, this doesn’t mean that individual service providers do not offer TEP services. However, this is something that you should pay attention to. Some professionals might look much cheaper only because they don’t offer editing and proofreading on top of translation.

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4. Provide the necessary materials.

This is not only about the standard reference materials. If you need to translate software, provide the translator with a demo version. If you need to translate a manual, your translator should get the original manual. Do you have an article to translate with a certain layout in mind? Provide the translator with a draft in order not to have any problems at the DTP stage. And the list goes on.

If you want the translation to seamlessly convey your voice, you should have a style guide. If you have a list of set terminology, this should also be given to the translator. The more reference materials the translator has, the better and faster the translation will be. Of course, you may worry about confidentiality issues. In this case you should sign a non-disclosure agreement with the service provider.

This section also involves questions the translator asks. Don’t just dismiss them as a nuisance: please understand that the translator takes extra time and effort to ensure the perfect translation when they ask questions.

If you choose a good provider and follow these very basic tips, your chances to get a perfect translation will get much higher. If you have any questions or want me to elaborate on any details, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line!

Want to know a bit more about the translation services? Here’s an article to get started.