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What to consider before you send content for translation


Kristin Kehoe

Project Manager

Ian Gilchrist

PureFluent Roving Reporter

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September 6, 2019

In this edition of our blog, PureFluent Project Manager Kristin Kehoe talks with Ian about the things a business should consider before setting translations in motion.

Ian:Kristin, what are the initial things a person should consider before requesting a translation?

Kristin:This really depends on the specifics of the text, but in general it is good to first make sure the text is final and no further changes will be made.  Next, you will want to know what type of text it is, whether it has complicated industry-specific terminology, is creative content, or something more straightforward. And last, it is important to know what are your internal deadlines so that your translation partner can best advise on the workflow, resources, and time needed to complete the translation. Sometimes, we receive requests to translate a 10,000 word file in 2 days, when this normally takes us 5-6 days to complete. In these cases it’s important that customers have a clear understanding of what they need and when they need it so that translators can work with them to meet their deadline.

Ian:Translation often comes at the tail end of the process of content creation; would you agree that businesses should think about their translation requirements much earlier in the content process?

Kristin:The translation phase sometimes seems like an afterthought, but the results are always better when it is considered to be an integral part of one’s business strategy and we are involved from an earlier stage. Having advanced notice of creative or challenging content gives us time to line up the right translators and to set up briefing calls between the translators and the customer. As a PM, I can also advise the customer on the best workflow for the best outcome.

Another example where early involvement is helpful is content contained in specialist print or web formats. For example, we provide DTP (desktop publishing) layout services, with customers sending us material to be printed or posted online. Customers spend lots of time on their English content, thinking about marketing tag lines and how the English copy looks on the page. However it’s often the case that less thought is given as to how the copy and layout will look in other languages. If you have text expansion in your translations, you could have problems with text wrapping which can impact readability – we talked about this in more detail in our blog on Multilingual DTP.

If the translation team is involved with a project from the outset, many of these problems can be avoided as we can advise on text expansion rates, its impact on the layout and how much extra white space should be allowed for. Text may look longer in other languages, and if you’re advised of this you might choose to alter the layout so that it will look good in all languages.

A lot of times customers think that something they created in English can ‘easily’ be translated in to other languages, but if hours, weeks or months have been spent planning a campaign, creating and rejecting taglines etc, the translators will need to go through a similarly involved albeit somewhat briefer process.

Ian:How does context impact on the translation process, and the provision of sufficient supporting materials that enable a translation team to work effectively?

Kristin:It is really helpful for the translators to have as much information and details about the project as possible. The translation process is smoothest when the translators know what they are translating (products, website menu lists, hotel room descriptions, etc.), why they are translating the content (is it for an email, website, or brochure?), and where this content will live. If it is for a website, which webpage are we translating? If it is a marketing email, what does the email template look like? Supplying images, templates, and links can help the translator better understand the content in a way that terms or phrases in isolation don’t. For instance, when describing a shirt, it is easier to do so when you can see the pattern, colours, and the cut than just reading bullet points.

Ian:This makes perfect sense but I guess sometimes people don’t grasp the simplicity of ‘show me the product’.

Kristin:Absolutely. English can be tricky – phrases can be interpreted in multiple ways and you can easily question the meaning of what at first glance may seem quite simple and straightforward. Having visual content as support material for the translation is invaluable to any translator.

Ian:How does checking text in context assist with a translation?

Kristin:An in-context check would involve looking at text once it’s placed wherever it’s ultimately going to live. This is very helpful in artwork scenarios, so it’s linked to DTP as well, and could apply to any kind of translation where the final destination isn’t the same as what is initially supplied. We usually receive content in an MS Word or Excel, but the content is actually for a marketing email with images and links. Seeing the text in place may lead to changes in the translation if a word is too long for a button on a website. Making little tweaks at the end of the process after seeing a word is falling off the page or outside the area of the button ensures that the page looks professional.

Ian:How does all the time and effort that went in to the creation of the original English text impact on what the translator does?

Kristin:The main impact is around transcreation, or creative translation. Often customers think that something they created in English can ‘easily’ be translated into other languages. But if hours, weeks or months have been spent planning a campaign, creating and rejecting taglines, and selecting the right imagery, the translators will need to go through a similarly involved, albeit briefer, process. They need to understand what the campaign is about and what are its most important messages in order to convey them in other languages.

Content that is quite literary or elaborately descriptive might seem straightforward, but once a translator starts considering it, he may come up with five different ways to translate it and the decisions will be dictated by the goals of the campaign. This means that the translators should really see the original English creative brief, looking at the documentation that was created to direct the creation of the English text. The translator will offer several variations for the customer to choose from.

Ian:Do you feel that the translator’s role, in regards to the knowledge translators have about cultural differences and nuances, often extends beyond straightforward translating?

Kristin:If we were just a translation company, we would only translate medical and legal text where there isn’t room for creativity. If creativity is required for marketing texts, the client really does need to work with people with cultural insight, who are native speakers and preferably still reside in their native country so they’re in tune with new trends and current slang.

If you’re from France but have lived in the U.S. for the past 25 years, you’re probably pretty disconnected from what’s going on at present; if your target market is teenagers or 20 somethings you need to work with someone who knows what is culturally relevant.

Ian:Questions must arise regularly when a translation is underway – how are these dealt with?

Kristin:Many times when text is supplied, regardless of whether it’s creative copy or legal text, clients tend to think that their job is done after sending us their content and they simply wait for the translation to come back, but translators often have questions about the text. It still surprises me how complicated English is, and translators often ask me what the English source text actually means. Initially the text’s meaning seems clear to me, but when I read a sentence in the context of the sentence before and after it I realise it could have multiple interpretations. In those circumstances we have to ask the customer to clarify the precise meaning before we finalise the translation.

Customers need to be available so that any questions are answered quickly and the project can keep moving along on schedule. Sometimes our point of contact isn’t the right person to answer a question or the person who sent us the content goes on holiday after sending it to us, so it’s important that someone is assigned to monitor the project when possible.

We can share questions through our customer portal, too, but the important point here is that customers need to be aware that their involvement with the translation process doesn’t end when the copy is received by the translator.

About the authors

Kristin Kehoe

As a Project Manager at Purefluent, Kristin manages the translation workflow for customers in the UK, Netherlands, and Italy.
With more than a decade of experience in the non-profit sector in the US, Jamaica, and England, Kristin brings a unique combination of project management skills and cross-cultural awareness to the role.

See all posts by Kristin Kehoe
Ian Gilchrist

Ian has worked in music and home entertainment product development, marketing, and journalism in the U.S., Canada and the UK, where he currently lives, for over 30 years.

In that time he's has aided and abetted an eclectic array of artists including Alison Krauss, Talking Heads, Madeleine Peyroux and Slade, and has worked for a diverse range of labels and companies including Universal Music (Canada), Pioneer LDC (Europe), Milan Records (France), the British Film Institute (BFI), Rounder Records Group (Canada) and BMG (UK). In his guise as a film journalist Ian's interviewed many renowned and influential people, including director John Carpenter (Halloween), actors Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) and Tom Hardy (Venom), director Roman Polanski (Chinatown), and many more.

See all posts by Ian Gilchrist

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