The Fundamentals of Translation

Whether you are completely new to the world of translation or not, this short guide will introduce you to the five fundamentals that form the foundation of our projects here at Ultimate Languages.

1. Professional translators

The first thing to stress here is that not everyone who speaks another language is a translator. Yes, you might ask a colleague who happens to speak a bit of German to quickly skim an email or article and give you the gist of the message, but would you trust that same colleague to translate the content of your website or a legal contract? Probably not.

So that’s where translation companies like Ultimate Languages come in. We only work with professional translators who have either studied translation to a degree level, or who have worked as a translator for at least five years.

The best translators only translate into their native language, specialise in one or two particular fields, and continue their professional development by actively taking part in industry events and training.

These are the translators you want to get to know, but how?

When partnering with a translation company we always recommend that you get a feel for their translators’ work through a sampling process. Usually you provide the company with a short piece of text, no more than a couple of paragraphs of your choosing, which they will then have translated by a few of their most suitable translators.

Of course, the only way you can assess these samples is to engage any colleagues who are native speakers of your required languages to review the text and identify which translators fit your needs the best. Make sure you have someone lined up to review the samples before you go ahead and ask for them.

If you have regular translation requirements then it’s important to work with your translation partner to build a portfolio of trusted translators who will, over time, become an extension of your team, and this is where the next two fundamentals come in.

2. Style guidelines

Once you have selected your team of translators then the real training begins. Although they may have industry knowledge and more or less grasped your company’s tone of voice, there’s still some work to be done.

As you know, writing style is completely subjective and something that I might like you might think is a load of rubbish. So how do we overcome this? Well, the easiest thing to do is provide any style or tone of voice guidelines that your company has already created. This could be in your native language or in the target languages you require translation for.

In our experience many companies do not have such guidelines so it’s down to us to work with our clients to create such documentation.

The process can start by answering a few questions and providing examples of any previously translated content that your in-country teams really like the style of. Any and all reference material can help your chosen translators to get an insight into the style you are looking for, or what you’re not looking for…

3. Glossaries

…the same goes for terminology.
Depending on your industry there are probably words and phrases that must be adhered to, as well as your own company terminology. The only way to ensure that this is documented and used consistently in all languages you create content in is to create glossaries.

There are many different types of glossaries that can be maintained. Here are a few examples:

  • Company-specific
  • Industry-specific
  • Untranslateables
  • UI terminology for software
  • SEO keywords

The best place to start is to see what you already have in your native language. From here your translation partner will work with you to either translate what you already have, or to use this as the basis for new glossaries in each target language.

Like the samples, it’s important to have a native speaker involved from your end as they will be able to approve the glossaries before they are put into use.
It’s also important to note that as your industry and company evolves these glossaries will need to be reviewed to ensure that they are as up to date as possible. We would recommend a glossary review every two years at the very least.

4. Industry-standard tools

Gone are the days when translators would work from printed documents translating side-by-side, resulting in time consuming repetitive tasks that would often cost the client more money. Instead translators and translation companies use industry-standard computer-assisted, or computer-aided, translation tools, or CAT tools for short.

These tools are used to ensure quality and consistency whilst reducing costs for the client as time goes on. Glossaries can be integrated with the tools to make sure that approved terminology is used within the translation, whilst in-built quality assurance checks allow both translators and project managers to QA the work prior to delivery.

Possibly the most important thing a CAT tools is used for is the creation of Translation Memories. These are bilingual databases which are built from translated content and stored for future reference, ultimately saving time and money in the long run.

For more information about CAT tools read our next blog here.

5. Tailored workflows

Here at Ultimate Languages we know that no two companies have identical translation needs. There are always specific differences which need to be accommodated in the translation process. We go into more detail about this in our separate blogs on website, technical translation and marketing translation if you would like to read more.

Important factors to build into any workflow include:

  • File format
  • Subject matter
  • Translation vs. transcreation vs. copywriting
  • Technology requirements
  • In-house or in-country review
  • Turnaround times

It’s incredibly important to work with your translation partner to answer any questions they have regarding your internal processes – be aware that there will be a lot of questions when you first embark on a partnership – as it will result in the most suitable solution for you.

At Ultimate Languages we know that these things can get a bit complicated, which is why one of our company values is to make complex translation solutions simple for our clients.

So, there we have it, five easy to remember fundamentals for any translation project. If you have these five things in place before embarking on your own translation projects then you are set for success, but don’t skip any of them! In our experience, projects which are built on these fundamentals result in higher quality translations and happier clients, and we can do the same for you.

If you have any questions or would like to know more about how Ultimate Languages put these fundamentals into practise, then drop us a message.

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