Translation Quality 101
Part 1. Source materials for translation
During this year, I was reconsidering my translation workflows and procedures. The whole thing led to a series of posts on ensuring translation quality for my Russian blog.
Why do I have to care?
Demands related to translation quality will often vary even inside a company. People who work with translations need quality. People who pay translation invoices look for a bargain.
How can a company come to know that translations of its marketing materials are not up to the mark? The customers may say they are not. I wouldn’t call that situation a pleasant one, would you?
Customer service departments may act as another feedback channel. A poorly translated instruction may lead to more calls from end users. Besides, many companies tend to track user reaction. For them, social media, forums, and communities are a valuable information source.
Ways and methods to ensure translation quality have been summarised many times before. Look into terminology work, style guides, quality assurance software, translation memory usage.
But many customers completely ignore them to speed up the workflow or to ‘optimise costs’. To focus on technical issues paying less attention to the content is another extreme. For marketing materials, it’s unacceptable.
Can you guarantee a generally high quality of marketing translations? If yes, how do you ensure that? We’ll analyse the process step by step.
Pull up the quality of source materials
For a translated text to become an efficient part of a marketing campaign, one should take into consideration the audience and the scale, communication channels, campaign success criteria, etc.
But what’s the key factor? To my mind, it’s the quality of the texts planned for translation. To make an excellent product, the translator is to get an excellent material to work with. In translation, high-quality input is a prerequisite for high-quality output.
Some criteria of a high-quality (i.e. efficient) marketing text:
- It engages. If a text does not evoke interest, why read it? Marketing materials failing to resonate with your audience fail to convert and sell, too. It’s true for both technical press releases and hot vacation offers. At the same time, consumer preferences tend to differ from ideas offered by marketing teams.
- It’s created for people. A message for a target audience and a demographic market? Or an open communication with your reader? The less your materials resemble advertising, the more convincing they are.
- It’s short. An average reader now has a shorter attention span than a goldfish. Get rid of informational noise and do not try to sell everything at once. Shape and trim extras, and you will see the results.
- It’s simple. Strange as it may sound, choose shorter words and sentences to make people believe you are an expert. “If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it well… Everything should be as simple as it can be, yet no simpler.” Albert Einstein
- It’s useful. Prepare a product review. Offer best practices for optimising workflows. Show great results that your client get. Stick to facts.
- It’s realistic. Avoid picturing a perfect company offering perfect products. Add a couple of small issues to make the material more real-world-like.
When the original leaves much to be desired, please, notify your translator in advance. Agree on how to deal with possible issues and how far the translator can go in adapting the text.
If you are not happy with the material offered for translation, chances are your audience wouldn’t be thrilled, either. Perhaps, it’s better to find some roundabouts: adaptation, reference translation, creating content locally, etc.
Take the translator into account
Well-managed translation workflow resembles a faultless, well-oiled mechanism. The problem is one seldom considers translation while creating content.
According to a recent report, 48% of US marketers had no budget at all for translation abroad. 59% of respondent lacked money allocated for reaching multilingual customers within the US. And only 15% of marketers said they were confident that their messages were resonating with international customers.
Long, intricate sentences, idioms and jargon are a good touch to a novel, but not to a news release. Add clichés to them, and your checklist of surefire translation killers is ready.
Misprints, vague phrases, inconsistent terms mean potential mistakes in future translations. Prepare for the second cycle of editing and proofreading (with additional time and budget).
If you plan to translate your marketing content, remember the following.
- Stay away from abbreviations and jargon where possible
- Make your writing clear and concise
- Avoid ambiguity
- Think globally as each language and culture have their own peculiarities
Track and provide feedback
The marketing translator is no less than a co-author of your materials. A text, which is clear, though poorly written, may be improved, but it takes time and effort.
Were the marketing tasks addressed efficiently before the translation took place? And after the translation? Sometimes, the analysis of a source text shows that the translator made their best. A perfect localised material is a teamwork result.
In case you doubt the translation quality, find an expert for a review and assessment.
- Do not choose the translator of the text as a reviewer
- Do not tell the reviewer who made the translation. What you need is an open-minded approach
- Look into the translation workflow. Perhaps, it’s a failure of a supervising manager and not of a translator
Have you tried to get through with a tight budget and got an unacceptable result? Analyse and draw your conclusions.
Marketing texts, image collaterals, and legal documents are to be translated by experts. Otherwise, losses can be far greater than gains.
Olesya Zaytseva, founder of Just Translate It, is a proficient translator and marketer with 20+ years of experience bringing her clients’ marketing communications to the next level through content translation, creation and promotion. Pursuing writing, archery, and combinatorial creativity. English and German into Russian.