5 Simple Steps to Prepare Your Content for Translation

Business, Language

Many factors contribute to a translation project successfully crossing the finish line. Of course, you have expectations when it comes to turnaround time and cost. Did you know, though, that you, as the client, actually have control over some of these factors?

That’s right, even before your translation team gets to work on your document, there are steps you can take to speed up the process and cut down on your costs. For best results, it’s essential that you prepare your document and give your language service provider (LSP) appropriately detailed instructions.

If this is news to you, keep reading! We’ll break down five simple steps for preparing your document for translation.

1. When it comes to financial terminology, the only thing you can count on is that it will change.

Because it is difficult to write anything without a clear target audience in mind, you likely could describe the audience for your original text. This is a good start, but consider carefully whether the audience for the translation fits the same description. Either way, you’ll want to share a detailed description of the target audience with your translator. 

First, determine the appropriate language pair. Remember that some languages have different dialects, so you’ll want to be specific. For example, if you’re looking to have an English document translated into Spanish for a Latin American audience, you’ll want to choose English (US) to Spanish (Latin America). Simply saying English to Spanish isn’t giving your translator all the information they need.

Also, are your readers young or old? Industry experts or the general public? Are they located in one place or are you writing to an international audience? Consider whether you’re looking for more technical or formal writing (for medical, legal, or financial documents) or marketing copy that allows for more freedom when it comes to tone.

Armed with this knowledge, your translation team will be in a better position to translate and localize the document for your target audience.

2. Share Publishing Requirements

Next, you’ll want to let your team know how you plan to distribute the text. If your document will be a downloadable or printable PDF, the formatting will be different from a website translation project. Each type of publication has different requirements.

For a website translation project, you’ll want to get clear on what you’re looking for on the technical side of things too. For example, your Language Service Provider (LSP) will likely ask a lot of questions to get clear on the scope of the project (meta data, SEO, graphics localization, and content distribution). In addition, some companies create cloned versions of their websites that are hosted in the target country. Others opt for a language navigation menu to be added to their main website. 

It’s very important to set publishing requirements ahead of time to avoid surpassing the project scope, deadline, and budget.

3. Share a Clean Document

Believe it or not, a lot of delays in translation projects happen because clients don’t share complete documents or their original source documents have major errors that can require a lot of back and forth to straighten out. For this reason, you’ll want to make sure any documents you share are final versions, clean, and free of errors.

Proofread, proofread, proofread: It’s not fair to rely on your translator to first copy edit your text and then translate it for you. Do yourself and your translation team a favor and do all your editing in-house before shipping anything off to your language partner.

 Check for:

  • Linguistic or cultural errors
  • Punctuation and Capitalization errors
  • Layout consistency of bold and italic text, date/time, and number formatting

 Share editable documents: In addition to proofreading your documents, make sure the source files are in editable formats. Examples here include MS Office or Google Docs, Indesign or Illustrator files, or web files such as XML or HTML. Translators use software to extract text and reformat files in other languages. This technology won’t work easily with PDF files.

Make some room: Also, keep in mind that translated text often takes up more space than the original text. Layouts that don’t account for text expansion may look crowded and need a lot of reformatting time after the translation is complete—which can drive up the cost and affect deadlines.

Unicode is your friend: Similarly, it helps to use Unicode fonts. Certain fonts only work with English. Have you ever seen a bit of text with question marks or boxes where there are supposed to be apostrophes in words? This happens because the document is not using a Unicode font. 

Avoid using Latin-only fonts with foreign scripts such as Cyrillic, Asian, or Brahmic. Instead, choose fonts such as Arial, Tahoma, and Times New Roman. Using Unicode fonts from the start will save you and your team a lot of time and money.

Think about images and symbols: Some images, colors, and symbols are irrelevant or inappropriate for foreign audiences. For example, using an image of a yellow school bus for educational materials isn’t appropriate outside of North America, since yellow buses are only used in the U.S. and Canada. 
It’s best to remove images or symbols that are unique to the original language or culture. If you’re unsure about any visuals, your translation agency should have localization experts who can provide feedback on what images and symbols could work for your target market.

    4. Share Definitions of Terms and a Style Guide

    It may seem like a basic thing to know, but remember, to do their job, your translator needs to understand your document. This means you absolutely need to use a subject matter expert to translate technical documents like medical or legal texts.

    This also means several things when it comes to preparing your document. Your translator may need help with understanding the meaning of certain terminology. Even if you’re using a subject matter expert, don’t assume your translator uses precisely the same definition for technical terms that you and your staff use. Sharing a glossary of technical terms will help to avoid any confusion.

    A glossary typically includes explanations, definitions, and sample sentences for the following:

    • Brand names and slogans
    • Industry-specific language
    • Abbreviations used

    Also, to ensure your translation has a tone that is similar to your brand’s voice, you’ll want to share a style guide as well.

    A style guide should include explanations and sample sentences for the following:

    • Tone: formal or informal
    • Voice of the document: active or passive
    • Preferred style for punctuation and capitalization

    5. Share Any Hard Deadlines

    Last, but not least, if you have hard deadlines relevant to the translation work, it’s important to communicate these with your project manager. The turnaround time on your translation project will depend on translator and editor availability, language pair, and word count. However, if you have a specific deadline, for example, an upcoming event or product launch, definitely share that information with your translation team to ensure you get what you need.

    Bear in mind that your Language Service Provider (LSP) should be able to give you an idea of what a realistic deadline would be for a project of this scope. They should work with you to meet any hard deadlines as long as those deadlines are realistic. Talking about this before the start of the project is always your best bet.

    It should be clear that following the above steps and creating clear, open lines of communication with your language team will keep your project on the right track. Taking the necessary time to prepare your document for translation will ensure that your project is delivered on time and on budget.

    The bottomline: You are a key member of your translation team. When you have a collaborative language partner and everyone does their parts, your translation project will go smoothly. 

    Look no further than DTS Language Services, Inc. for a collaborative language partner that is committed to the success of your global business. Our team is ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work with you. Get a quote or contact us to discuss your project today!

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