In the world with so many software tools that help us translate in a more efficient and cost-effective way, when it comes to quality, it still depends on human proficiency and the ability to use the tools we have at our disposal.
There is also one crucial thing to be remembered: quality depends on the collaboration between the clients and their language services providers. The better the partnership and communication – the better the output.
Such a partnership, where your reviewers get what you’ve ordered from your translation service provider, calls for 3 pillars to be built right away. Otherwise, you’ll be circling around the same issues, still speaking different languages and getting more and more frustrated. And that’s not your goal, I believe. Here we go then.
When you buy a translation service, what you get is not only the translated files. Apart from the instant connection to your markets, there is another important side of this equation that determines your success or failure. You start a relationship with people who take care of your needs and your projects, who listen to you and wait for your input and feedback. And this input and feedback are essential. Getting the quality you expect is a process in which back and forth communication is a foundation of the final output. It needs time and effort, and nothing happens by itself within a day, week or even month.
You need a process, of course. But you also need tools, people and know-how. If you have a style guide or specific preferences towards terminology, or a glossary you want your partner to use – do you communicate it loud and clear at the very beginning of the cooperation? Because these are the most basic elements of a better process. They can really kick-start your translation process optimization roadmap.
Who does the review on your end? Are they people employed in your company? Is that their main job or just an additional pile of unwelcome stuff that they need to do after-hours?
Of course, they know your industry and products but do they have some basic know-how about how translation work gets done in a professional environment?
Do they know the fine but crucial differences between translation, transcreation and copywriting?
It all affects their work and output. The fact that something is written in a different way is not always an error. It may not need rewriting. Actually, preferential rewriting has proven to be the most time- and resource-consuming method of client review. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Just as backtranslation is the least efficient method of revision, especially if you use Google Translator for it. Speaking of which, how often do you think to yourself “They Google-translated that”? Well, that’s most probably because you haven’t worked out the whole quality framework for your collaboration. It all can be sorted out but needs your involvement from the beginning.
You want changes, you need to be ready to change.
Surely, your provider is waiting for you to be ready for it, too. This is the only way, actually, to break away from the vicious circle of expectations gap. And no, switching your provider won’t work. You will hear and see the same questions from the new guys at some point and you’ll get back to where you started from.
To avoid the pitfalls like unnecessary rewriting, going overboard with so-called preferential changes or even having errors put into the target files (yes, reviewers often don’t see any point in comparing the target text to the source language or even using a spell-checker), it is essential for your reviewers not only to be qualified for the job in the broad meaning, but also to be open to suggestions and willing to communicate in a clear and engaging way with your LSP. Your language translation partner is there for you. You have a common goal. You need to talk and then act towards your success on global markets.
When you buy language translation, you get files, relationship and people but above all of this, you receive a whole lot of new knowledge that your LSP has and is willing to share. Much of that stuff is best practices and processes that work with other clients – it just needs to be customized to you. No kicking down open doors, just informed tweaking what has proven to be working elsewhere. Your LSP needs you for this as they won’t do anything alone.
Do you use the expertise, experience, skills and tools that your language translation partner offers you and your team to use to get things working better and faster (and it’s usually for free)?
Do your reviewers remember that the LSP team is there for them, craving to work through the feedback and actionable process improvement suggestions together?
Do they know that the knowledge your translation partner has is beneficial for them and that it will improve their work and save their time? Not to mention saving them from their frustration. When the person reviewing the files knows why the text is translated in a specific way and why it is not advisable to change that – their understanding will automatically give them a peace of mind.
The translation guys are on your side, really. Just let them in and let them help you. They are aware things are different in your company and industry, but you need to be aware of the same. You both need to bridge that gap and be open to knowledge you may not have. There is a reason why you hired people who know their translation job. Use their know-how. Engage. Invest time at the start to save 10 times more time later on so that your people can focus on whatever their main job is. It’s a success vs. failure type of thing. Think about it.
When you start collaboration and you know that you also get the know-how of translation experts to help you and guide you through all the steps of the process – so use it. And add to it! Build. Be active. Together. After all, you learn your LSP’s ways and they must learn yours. The worst thing either of the parties may say/hear is “I don’t have time for this.”
Time is money. The more time you invest at the start of your collaboration with your language services partner, the more money you save and also the more money you earn. You won’t drain your internal resources and translation won’t be just “that annoying thing no one wants to deal with”.
You invest time by taking time to discuss the important elements of your projects. You make sure that the LSP understands what you need them to do for you and how you want it done (I don’t mean the quality – this is a given). You invest time and resources into building a glossary of approved terms so that your company message is conveyed the way you want. You spend time making sure that the content is in the right format and find the best process solutions, including workflows and tools.
Do you take time to make sure people who review the translations after they are delivered also take the same approach? Do they engage? Do they want to expand their knowledge, understanding and open-mindedness just like you and your LSP do?
Do you take time to find the person who is an expert in the field, in the source and target language, who knows your company’s agenda and also is willing to share this at the review stage?
Frustration caused by giving the wrong tasks to the wrong people can be reflected in the review outcome. The canonical example that resonates among translation industry veterans is reviewers saying: “It’s Google Translate!”. There are many of those and they are all the result of not clearly defining the collaboration framework and investing time in educating each other in order to come up with the ultimate process solution.
We can’t read each other’s brains yet. It’s hard to know what the other side expects when there’s no efficient communication that returns actions that guarantee progress. Add to this a lack of planning ahead (or going from project to project without any efforts to improve things) and you have a disaster which can easily be avoided.
Just don’t get tempted to treat that initial time and resource investment as a cost. Because it will turn out to be an investment very soon. That’s the whole beauty of it. You won’t get big by cutting the corners. You just need to see things the way they really are and not just to barely scratch the surface because it’s easier that way. All great things are in fact right beneath it and all it takes to uncover them is just a little bit of persistence, consistency, patience, goodwill and trust.
Get involved in the translation process, be the part of it from start to finish. It’s your project and as in any relationship: it takes two to make it work. Find motivation to learn from your LSP and to share your expertise and expectations with them. Take your time to plan the process, including the review and to inspire your reviewers to also be willing to learn, share and invest their time.
When you have the will to get involved, to get educated and to invest time, there can be only one result: your success and your revenue hitting the target.