7 Tips to Streamline Translations


The translation process can make your head spin. From finding someone who can translate content to making sure your training material is ready for deployment, there are a dizzying number of steps that can slow down the process. Add in the inability to read or edit incoming content, and you have a logistical nightmare. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are 7 tips to streamline the process.

1. Get management buy in and secure talent early.

Securing management support and getting an appropriate team size before starting the translation process ensures that you have willing participants in the process. If possible start by hiring contractors or freelancers, but be sure to find someone who can successfully communicate in your native language as well as the language being asked for and who can assign a contact point in your region to avoid time zone hassles and delays. If your company is trying to use internal resources or reduce the overall cost, then the person completing the translation would probably be an employee. This employee should be made aware of the extra task and how it helps the company from his or her employer before the process takes place. Include information like total number of documents, expected hours per week contribution, and due dates.

2. Be concise.

Edit down the (English or other source language) version, so it includes concise wording. This ensures the translation is more likely to come back clean and that the project scope is narrowed. Outsource translation firms often charge by the word, so you’ll be saving money too! Check for clauses or phrases to see if they can be reduced to a simpler construction. Then quickly scan your script for possible edits—look for unnecessary:

• Adverbs,

• Pleonasms,

• Metaphors,

• Inappropriate culture gestures or references,

• Clichés or colloquialisms, and

• Euphemisms.

3. Do a red flag check.

Review the material for potential issues. Check for text on images to see if they need to be translated or recreated. Be sure the content is generalized when needed and refined to localized content when necessary. During a rather large project, we had a standard course translated into multiple languages. Because the red flag check wasn’t done, no one realized (of course until it was too late) that the content was instructing European countries about electrical safety using American standards (220 versus 110 and pictures of the wrong type of plugs).

4. Vary your images.

As a good general practice, include images that are not biased when it comes to gender and race. This can be especially important when working with clients across the globe. On one project I worked on, I was called out for using “too many females” even though the mix throughout the course was 50/50. Do what you can to prepare and have additional images on hand if needed.

5. Leave room for text to breathe.

Be sure to leave enough room for text and respect the languages nuances. In some languages, punctuation is different (Thai uses none) while accents may be used in other languages (Spanish). Brush up on your linguistic investigation skills and be prepared to scan the document accordingly. While the facts and figures I’m going to throw out are hotly debated in the translation community, here are some basic “guidelines” to follow regarding the space of a language compared to English:

• Hebrew text tends to be 1/3 shorter

• French languages tend to be ¼ longer

• Scandinavian is almost word for word with the expectation of Swedish which tends to be longer

• German includes compound words which makes for longer line spacing

• Thai is longer and also includes no punctuation so only spacing is used to separate sentences

• Double byte characters such as Chinese and Korean are shorter

• Russian is debatable, but most agree it’s a little longer

6. Provide guidelines.

When possible, provide a document with general guidelines. This can include:

• Common words to be used

• The difference between abbreviations—which should be kept and which ones should be replaced

• “Slang” that’s appropriate to use

• Instructions on using informal versus formal

You can also include best handling tips for the RTF like:

• Using Arial Unicode MS (it’s able to accommodate almost every language)

• Opening the document in Notepad or WordPad (Word sometimes transfers unseen characters which can cause spacing and phantom objects on the page)

• Checking the document for white text (that one took a while to figure out)

• Not removing or editing the “do not edit” lines

Most importantly, provide instructions on how to access the English version (or other source text version) for reference. A lot of questions a translator may have can easily be resolved using reference to the native piece and contextual clues.

7. Ask for help!

Unless you’re required to know the language you’re translating material into, there’s no harm in asking for help. For especially complicated courses with transitions or content that’s presented in complex manners like charts, create a key and ask the translator to fill in the blanks. If needed, have your developer and translator meet to ensure the course is built correctly.

Editor’s note: Special thanks to our guest author, Jennifer Valley!

Jennifer Valley is an Instructional Designer with five years of experience in learning. She loves sharing and conversing on social media, blogging, and spending time with her family. You can read her blog here, as well as follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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