In our first post, Language Ninja: Average Day in the Life of a Translator, we explored how the translation process works and what exactly it is a translator does on a day-to-day basis. What we need to discover now are the challenges, the road bumps that translators can encounter along the way, and to learn what best practices can be incorporated between clients and translators to overcome these challenges.

For this, we are going to list a series of tips and tricks that will create a better, smoother setting for the translation process and will ultimately ensure the translation you receive is of the highest quality and suits your needs exactly.

Language Ninja: What Makes a Good Translation? Photo of a garden table with a laptop and a glass of cappuccino.

The Translation Brief

The first special trick is something that in translation theory classes is referred to as “The Translation Brief”.

In order to have a translation be effective and of quality, a translator needs to know the client’s exact requirements and outcomes for the translation. As a translator, it is helpful to have answers from the client to the following questions, and to always bear them in mind when translating:

  • The Target:
    • Who is going to read the translation?
    • Is it going to be for company use or for the public?
    • Will it be read by sector specialists or by a broader audience?
  • The Purpose:
    • What is the translation for? Understanding purposes only? Marketing? Publication?
  • The Text:
    • Is a specific style needed?
    • Was the text composed by more than one person?
  • Special Requirements:
    • Restricted word count
    • Words to be left in the source language
    • Use of glossaries, style guides, etc.

All these details, when put together in the translation brief, give the translator a better idea about the text they are approaching. Of course, very often there is no time to put together a proper brief, but even just a very basic schematic list could make a big difference to the translator’s workflow and, ultimately, will be sure to improve the quality of the translated text.

Non-editable Files and DTP Tasks

The second trick pertains to the practical requirements of carrying out a translation. It’s always important to remember to specify all the additional tasks that may be required for your translation.

For instance, if you cannot provide an editable file for translation or, if you can provide an editable file but require your translated file to go to print straight away, you may benefit from ordering a specialised DTP service.

A translated text can substantially alter the visual impact of a text, and a poorly formatted file can make your brochure, leaflet or magazine cover virtually illegible. It’s highly recommended that your documents are dealt with by DTP experts, particularly those with experience of working with professional linguists, to ensure the perfect blend of graphic and linguistic rendering for your text.

Translating a “Work in Progress” File

Another trick refers to the organisational aspect of the translation process. It is generally good practice to send the file for translation only when it’s finished and ready. This avoids having multiple out-of-date versions of the translated file – a situation that runs a high risk of the wrong version being sent at the wrong moment.

Sometimes, though, it’s impossible to postpone sending the file for translation. There may be instances where the files are very big and it’s necessary to start the translation process in order to make a strict expected deadline. In these instances, notifying the customer service team can go a long way to ensuring a successful translation. Simply explaining that the text isn’t in the final stage and, where possible, tracking your additions and amendments can guarantee you a more efficient service and will help maintain excellent translation standards across all your projects.

Language Ninja: What Makes a Good Translation? Photo of a wooden surface with an open diary

If You Can, Plan Ahead

The last, crucial element to consider is that time always affects the quality of a translation. Where possible, always allow adequate time for your translation needs in your schedule or action plan. However, this isn’t always possible. Life and work can often throw unexpected surprises your way and you may need an urgent translation service.

The great thing is there is now computer-assisted translation software that can be used to help reduce the translation time and reference management considerably, and at Wolfestone we are proud to say that we are one of the industry leaders for offering such technology in the form of our Synergy X.

For clients Synergy X can help reduce turnaround times, improve consistency and potentially reduce the costs of translation. For translators, it provides an online CAT tool that greatly assists the translation process, with improved consistency of terms and plenty of online guidance, but also it can potentially increase the translation capacity of a translator, allowing them to take on more work.

All these strategies, if followed, allow the translator the freedom to focus exclusively on the text and on the translation quality, which, ultimately, is what their job is all about. Hopefully, now you have a better idea of what translators do and how they do it, and who knows, maybe you’ve even met one. Maybe the tall guy crouched behind his laptop every morning on the train is currently working on the company report that you need to present to your Japanese partners next Thursday. You will probably never know his name, but you will be working with him, and with us, to make your business grow and flourish.

Because the one thing that we all have in common, is that we care about your language needs.

by Costanza Rocchi

Project Manager at Wolfestone and freelance translator. Graduated with distinction from Swansea University's MA in Professional Translation. A language professional with a passion for storytelling, Costanza has recently started to widen her skills to include content writing. She smiles a lot and likes hiking and finding a quiet corner to read.