translation services

What are the steps to achieving a high quality translation?

In Blogby Rafael Morel

Creating a high quality translation is a complex process. Like other specialties, there are certain steps that need to be followed to make our work more accurate and efficient. In translation, there are critical steps necessary to successfully complete the process. In this blog we will break down the translation process into 4 steps.

4 steps to a high quality translation

Familiarize Yourself with the Original Document

Before you get started on the actual translation work, you need to familiarize yourself with the assignment. Each client will have slightly different needs based on the reason for the translation. For example, a business requiring a translation will have different needs than a person needing a court document translated. Make sure you have a clear understanding of your client’s goals, and what they need from your translation service. 

This includes finding out from the client who the translation is intended for, whether its an internal audience (employees, for example) or an external audience (customers). Also, ensuring that the deadline required by the client provides for sufficient time to deliver a polished translation.

This also means you’ll need to research the document and ensure that you’re aware of any industry or region-specific terms that may come up. Take note of anything that appears in the untranslated text that you might need to brush up on or research. Complete any prep work you need and try to keep clear, concise notes so it’s easier to retrieve the information later. 

Before and during the translation, don’t rule out communicating with the client if you need clarification about terminology or about potential errors in the original text, among other issues. It’s better to ask during the process than to leave it until the very end.

Begin the Translation

Because translation is delicate work and missing only a word or two can result in a different meaning, you’ll want to take your time. Another strategy translators employ is ‘segmenting’ the original text as they translate it. Essentially, that means breaking up the text in a few words at a time, translating those, and then moving on to the next segment.

Most translators today use CAT tools (Computer Assisted Translation), which automatically segment the text into translation units; which provide for greater accuracy during translation, as well as many other benefits, like warnings if text is left untranslated or omitted. CAT tools do not translate the document but help the translation process be more efficient and consistent.

You’ll want to work your way through the document in these segments. Sometimes you might find you have a larger or smaller segment, if you’re trying to keep more natural phrasing in your translation. If you have to vary it, you can also highlight the phrase you’re ending on, to avoid losing your place. 

Proofread and Refine Your Work

Once you’ve successfully translated the entire original text, it’s time to take a breather, and then review it. Taking a break is a good way to ensure your proofreading and editing time doesn’t go to waste. Translating can be mentally strenuous and stepping away from your work allows you time to refresh your mind. Do something totally unrelated to your work before you come back to it. This way you can see your work with fresh eyes and pick up things you might have missed. There are many suggestions on how to proofread your work (printing it on paper, reading it backwards, reading it out loud, etc.). It could be useful to research them, specially if you will be proofreading your own work. After working too closely on a translation, you might not be able to detect any errors in your work.

One of the best ways to start revising your work is to read through your translation side by side with the original. Read the whole piece out loud, and make a note of anything that seems off, or may need to be reviewed. You’ll then go over any areas that may need more work.

After you’ve resolved any errors or items needing clarity, it’s time to compare. Read through the original document, and your translation. You want to ensure that your work has the same meaning, and phrasing, or as close as possible to the original text. 

If you have the opportunity to work with another colleague and proofread each other’s work, that could also be to your advantage in delivering to the client a higher quality translation.

Take time to review numbers, dates and other non-language text in the document to make sure you have kept them the same as the original document. Do keep in mind that depending on the target audience or the country to which the document is intended to, dates or figures might require changing them to the intended audience preference (coma vs period, day before month vs month before date, etc.).

Lastly, it might seem obvious, but don’t forget to use the spellcheck feature on your translation before delivering it to the client. Last minute changes can inadvertently add spelling errors that you might not catch yourself.

Final Formatting and Delivery

After you’ve fine-tuned the translation itself, format it per your clients’ specifications. If they didn’t give you a specific format to follow, match the original document as closely as possible, while maintaining clarity.

Deliver it to your client, in the manner they requested. Touch base with your client to confirm receipt, and that there are no further requests regarding the work. 

More Advice for a High Quality Translation for Clients and Translators Alike

Use a Guide Whenever Possible

One of the most important things you can do is make sure you’re on the same page as your client. Regional colloquialisms can throw an otherwise accurate translation into pure havoc. Formatting that doesn’t match the client’s original format can slow down the process. The best way to avoid misunderstandings is to use a guide, or an outline which both parties have agreed upon. This may include a style guide from the client, or glossaries and reference sections, while these tools are not always available, they can be helpful. 

Create a Streamlined Process

Communication is key; and having a streamlined process for how you handle translations can make things easier for both translators and clients. Having a specific method to tackle translations, and specific timelines for each step can reduce miscommunication, and make for a more successful project. 

Communicate Clearly

Naturally, both translator and client need to be on the same page. However, sometimes little details that aren’t discussed can really derail a project. Even if something seems obvious, it’s worth taking the time to detail all aspects of the project, and the expectations on both ends.

For clients, providing a lot of detail not only makes for a better translation, it can also mean you get the translator that’s best qualified for the job. Including information about your industry, intended audience, or intended translation medium (brochures, radio broadcasts, online articles, etc.) can help your translator make the most effective choices when producing the translation. 

Make Reasonable Deadlines

The effectiveness of a translation can be greatly impacted by the amount of time allowed to complete it. Whenever possible, try to avoid rush jobs with tight deadlines. Like anyone else, translators need enough time to do their work. That means you may need to start planning translation projects well in advance of the production deadline.

While each translator will work at a different pace and have different production schedules as a result, it’s always better to give extra time rather than less. As a client, it’s better to receive a document early, than to receive a rushed translation.   

Conclusion

For translators, following these translation steps can have a very positive impact; not only on how you manage your work, but the ultimate quality and coherence of your translated piece. By giving yourself time to get familiar with the original text, and researching ahead, you create a situation where you won’t need to stop mid-translation.

Creating segments to translate is easier, more efficient, and leads to a more accurate translation. Remember to take a break before you proofread, and always check in with your client after submitting your translations.

For an effective translation, communication is paramount for both the client and freelancer. Clear expectations allow both parties to end up happy with the final product. Remember, whenever possible, try to give ample time for the translation project. Quality is important, especially if the translation is going out in a publication or platform.