Monday, June 2, 2014

Managing Translators Internally

Many companies are tempted to translate material using resources they have found on their own when first going global or the need arises. However, when managing translation and particular translators internally you must consider the amount of additional work that is involved, what may be compromised, and what hidden costs may be associated as well.

Ask yourself these questions:

Would you be able to tell, from a resume, email or while speaking with someone in English, that they were native-speakers of the target language and good writers?
Speaking is not writing and oral fluency does not guarantee smooth, coherent, or stylish writing of the end product. The person you are asking to do the translation may not be able to read the original English well enough to translate it effectively. And in some cultures, they are too polite to let you know what experience they really have translating. They will either stall or do it anyway, but slowly and it will be of very poor quality and sound like a bad translation.

Who writes your English material?
Just as all English speakers are not necessarily good writers, the same applies to any other language. Does your floor manager write your marketing material? Does your accounting department write your software instructions? I’m sure that’s not the case. Usually someone with a writing background or a professional service is charged with the writing of company publications, or other material seen by the end user or prospect. The same goes for translation. It should be performed by someone experienced in the craft and with industry specific knowledge.

Where did you find the translator?
If your in-country contacts recommend them, are they truly a certified professional translator? Knowing your industry is important so asking if they have translated the subject matter and understand the English is a first start. Most professional translators specialize in a particular area. There are many translators found on-line that are very inexpensive. But how can one guard against them taking your money and then using a free on-line tool that will ultimately provide gibberish or may even be crowdsourcing for large volumes?

We often have clients come to Confluent that switch from an internal process that was not working. The most commonly heard complaints being that the translation took too long which resulted in product deliveries not being met and that the quality was poor. It took time employees away from their main job and left them feeling that they were wasting time and money. In other cases, eventually the volume and languages required soon became too much to coordinate and process in-house. Others felt big opportunities were being missed by not concentrating on core business functions, like sales.

Most businesses also don’t have their own translation memory tool and some of the non-professional translators don’t either. So each time a company had similar stock material the translator used maybe retranslated the same material over and over again. The end result is lack of consistency, added external and internal cost and more time spent than if having used a qualified translation service.

If desktop publishing (DTP) is involved, all of the translated material needs to be re-created in the translated language. There are many automated tools that a professional translation service uses with translation memory, but individual translators do not maintain that type of software. Individual translators usually do not have QuarkXPress, InDesign and other software packages that work in conjunction with translation memory.

Most companies that are managing translations internally forget one very important step, and that is post DTP proofreading. So that is another management step needed to be included that someone should take the time to do internally by sending back the material to a native-speaker.

Switching from an internal process to using a translation service provider doesn’t have to be like swimming in rough waves. Confluent has structured steps and processes to make the transition smooth and cost effective. This way you can be assured you are getting the quality translations done by professional linguists and written for the intended audience in order to be successful in all of your global communications.