As outlined in my previous post on this subject, in this series of articles we are looking at a set of tips based around a ten step process to help you establish your translation capability. The first set of tips are based around step 1 – defining your approach to translation:
Take a strategic approach to translation
Translation is an important part of any business operation. The process provides information to customers, suppliers, shareholders and regulators. Errors can at minimum be embarrassing to the organisation and in the extreme can lead to sanctions and product recall. It is therefore essential that a strategic approach is taken to the provision of translation capabilities within your organisation. This needs to cover policies, processes and procedures, document creation and management, management of translation agencies and approval and use of texts. Policies need to be complied with and management and in-country personnel need to buy-in to documentation processes
Understand the ‘value-add’ from Translation
Translation is a complex activity impacting many parts of the organisation and many different types of documents. It is often a ‘hidden’ activity in many companies, who don’t realise this complexity or the business impact when things go wrong. In light of this, it should be performed and managed by professionals of the domain to ensure a professional approach that assures and enhances corporate reputation.
The preparation, review and approval of a translation takes time – a translator usually translates around 2500 words per day. It is therefore important that individuals involved in the process are given appropriate time to perform the quality critical steps they undertake. Moreover much of this activity may be performed outside your organisation by translation service providers. These suppliers need to be appropriately selected, engaged and managed to ensure performance meets business requirements. A partnership approach is recommended, involving the translation providers in the translation projects and process improvements you are undertaking.
The use of glossaries and style guides can provide a level of standard for translations undertaken. A company-wide glossary of English terms, that is vetted by management and reviewers, will help ensure that all teams agree on the core terminology that is unique to your organization. The glossary could include the following conventions that are used in your company: corporate/product nomenclature, abbreviations and acronyms, terms that remain in English (i.e., product names, copyright items, etc.), and “lingo” that should stay consistent across languages.
A style guide explains the “voice” and tone that each language should have. This assists in ensuring consistency of the style if translations in the same language are being undertaken by different teams across the organisation.
Resist the temptation to do it yourself
Being able to speak a language does not guarantee being able to write effectively in that language. In most cases your written command of a foreign language will be immediately recognisable as “foreign”. Being bilingual is not a guarantee of being able to translate a document. It is a misconception that anyone who is bilingual will have fluency in writing or skill in translation. If you want your organisation to appear professional you need to be served by a professional approach. Moreover, in many cultures, awkward or sloppy language is not considered amusing and can be considered insulting
Most lead translators have a minimum of 5 years of experience in translation. They either have a university degree, relevant experience in a specialised field of work, or equivalent professional qualifications. All reputable translation companies would go through a strict vetting process before enlisting any translators and their work will be regularly monitored. Translators will only translate into their native language and will have experience in the industry they are translating for.
Translation requirements can arise in many different parts of an organisation, but typically these are not coordinated centrally, but instead local teams undertake the activity in isolation, to local standards and processes and often creating a plethora of translations service providers.
It is far more effective from a quality and consistency point of view to centralize language projects into a centralised coordinator role and outsourcing translation to rigorously selected and preferred suppliers.
It would therefore be recommended to assign a translation coordinator who selects, assesses, communicates with and manages your translation providers and coordinates all translation projects of your company. If you have a large spread of required languages, it is unlikely that one translation service provider would be able to meet all needs – they may rely on local subcontractors to support them, and you would need to ensure that these local subcontractors are appropriate for the task and effectively managed by the lead service provider. This may drive you to a shortlist of preferred suppliers, in which case it will be necessary to ensure when people select a provider, they select on the right basis of competency, specialisations, languages, prices etc.
A Document Management System will help with version control, effective QA and reviews, and promote re-use and consistency. It should be available for everyone involved with the process, whether inside or external to your company.
In the next article we will look at the second step – Initiate your project.
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