Better, faster, cheaper, louder: want quality translations without going daft? Here’s how to get more from your budget.
What’s the secret to quality translations?
Working smarter, not harder.
Or, in less exciting language, process consistency. Using a repeatable, defined process gives you visibility into what’s working. And what’s not. Then you can work with your partners to continually improve results.
Here are some ideas to consider, taken from the Daft Punk playbook:
WORK IT FASTER
Human translation speed has remained static for decades. So if you want to be faster, technology holds the answer.
Your first thought may be machine translation. But this isn’t guaranteed to speed things up. It depends on the suitability of your text – and the quality of the raw output. For more info, check this out.
Here are two other systems worth a second look:
1. TRANSLATION MEMORIES
They do exactly what it says on the tin.
Store your translations in source and target language pairs. Then reuse them in future projects so you only need to translate each sentence once. Translation memories reduce cost (up to 37% for our client Mazda). But they also mean less time spent on translation (and consistency checks).
2. CONTENT CONNECTORS
Is WordPress your CMS? With a market share of 63%, it is for many companies. The WPML plug-in allows you to push content from your site directly to translation memory software. This takes out manual export/import steps, making it perfect for frequent updates.
And are you using agile workflows? If yes, it’s only natural you’ll want your translators involved too. Content connectors can help you push source strings to your team. Finished translations are reimported automatically, too.
But bear in mind that translation is a very different discipline to programming. Here are a few things to think about:
1. Context matters
The translation of one menu item in an app won’t affect the translation of the second item. But if you’re working on long-form copy, like an article or brochure, it’s the opposite. If you insert a new sentence into a paragraph, the whole section will need to be reviewed. Out-of-context translations can sound odd or even wrong.
2. Project size
Usually, every project starts with the perfect linguist choice and thorough briefing. However, for very small updates, this adds considerably to the cost. For agile workflows, monthly agreements and retainers are the way to keep costs down.
3. Iterative waste
Agile means you may have text translated that won’t make it into the finished product. A translation memory can store this text for reuse. But planning is essential to make sure you don’t overspend.
MAKE IT BETTER
Translations should be complete, consistent and accurate, with no spelling or grammar mistakes. This is the minimum viable product of any quality translation service and you should accept nothing less.
So how can you improve translation quality? By boosting the content’s effectiveness. Build stronger connections with your audience. And think about scalability – producing more content with less effort. Here are a few tools to get started:
1. A CONSISTENT TEAM
All translation service providers should work with professional mother-tongue translators. Even when that’s the case, the results can be patchy if you work with different linguists on every project.
But your business success shouldn’t hang on the availability of one individual translator. So we recommend building a team of linguists you use consistently. That way, they can immerse themselves in your brand and understand your preferences. And you have a structure that can grow with your needs.
2. TONE OF VOICE GUIDE
A tone of voice guide illustrates how your brand should sound – and how to adapt this for different audience segments and channels. It can also help you protect your unique brand voice while adapting to cultural differences in your target markets. Making key decisions upfront will help your team to get it right first time round. Want to know more? Have a look at how to create tone of voice guidelines here.
A glossary is a definitive guide to your company’s vocabulary. It can include proprietary words, such as product features, or industry-specific terms. It allows teams of linguists to produce consistent work.
Inconsistencies can be confusing for your customers. And changes after publication will take time to apply. In fact, terminology is the top cause of translation rework, accounting for 48% of changes. A glossary protects your brand from these headaches.
DO IT CHEAPER
Budgets are a fact of life. And everyone wants to make theirs go as far as possible.
But top translators have 4–6 years of study behind them. And they’ve honed their skills with years of experience. We’ll always advocate paying them a fair rate for good work.
Instead, a better way of lowering costs is to reduce the scope of work. Explore machine translation for simple, low-visibility content. Use translation memories to automate repetitive texts. Provide glossaries and guidelines to cut down on research time. And prioritize your most important markets and content.
SING IT LOUDER
What’s a loud translation? One that’s heard, of course.
A great way to get more value from your translation budget is to make sure people find your content. After all, even a beautiful brand voice can still get lost in the noise.
Avoid this by pinpointing which channels your customers are using, then direct your efforts there. SEO, PPC and social are all worthwhile investments. Don’t forget about offline channels either.
Quality translation is an art, not a science. But translation processes can be tried, tested and optimized. Have you heard of the localization maturity model? It explains how companies can evolve their approach as they grow to benefit their bottom lines and reduce the hassle.
In the right hands, translation services are cost-effective and fast. But it’s not one-size-fits-all. In our next article, we’ll explore the world of transcreation – and explain how to choose the right service levels for different content types.
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