As we continue in this series of articles expanding on Ensuring Effective Translations to help you establish your translation capability, the next set of tips are based around step 2 – Initiate your project.
Define your project clearly and in detail
Before you start anything, you need to know what you want to do. You should think about what you want to be translated and why is it necessary to do it? What is the purpose of the document and how critical is the effectiveness of the translation? Who is the intended audience and what might you have to do to incorporate their needs?
Think about the final purpose(s) of the translation(s)
What are you planning to do with the translated document? Is it for publication, internal use, legal documents, product safety information? Each of these have different groups of readers and different requirements about the style of the translation and the accuracy of the content. Understanding the purpose of the translation should lead you to the best approach for undertaking the translation and the capabilities you may require from a translation provider. It will likely also impact the cost of the translation.
Not all translation agencies are the same. They will have different language capabilities and technical expertise. Understanding the purpose of the translation will facilitate defining what type of translation provider you need.
Understanding the purpose of the translation will also help you define what needs to be translated. There may only be specific parts of the source document that you require and therefore it would make more sense to only have those sections translated into a new abridged version. This will reduce the translation cost and also speed up delivery.
Take the burden off the words
A picture tells a thousand words. Use of diagrams, pictures and illustrations can be more effective with international audiences than pages of highly technical text. Think carefully about the message you want to get across and how you can get the best mix of text and illustrations.
In order to effectively plan your project, you need to be clear on the deadlines to be met. From your understanding of the project’s purpose, it should be possible to determine what will need to happen to the translation once it has been approved and when approval is required. Is there a publishing deadline to be met, a date the translation must be submitted to print, or an event the translation will be used at? Any of these will dictate when the translation must be required by, forming the deadlines you need to meet.
Plan the project from start through to delivery
Planning your project is all about defining the what, when, who and how. For each step of your translation project be clear on what needs to be done, when that needs to happen, who needs to be involved and how it will be done. If you have a clear plan, you will know if you have been successful in delivering the project.
The key steps of what needs to be done should be set by your translation process, but for some projects there may be multiple documents to be translated or some additional steps that need to be undertaken.
The deadlines you have identified earlier are the starting point for defining the timelines for the plan. It is good practice to have standard lead-times for each step of your process that have been agreed upfront with all parties involved. Therefore, using the step lead-times to back schedule from the deadline to be met, will establish a plan. With careful planning, you should have sufficient time to deliver the translation to the deadline using the standard step lead-times. However, reality says this is not always the case! Where the step lead times and deadlines don’t match, it will be necessary to adjust the step lead-times to meet the delivery date. If this is the case, it is essential that these schedule changes are agreed with the impacted stakeholders, make them aware of the priority and assure their buy-in. A rushed translation will likely result in error, which will cause more delays.
Any translation project will require a number of people involved to prepare the information to be translated, create the translation, review it and finally approve it. It is important to define who this set of individuals are so they can be made aware of the project and how they need to be involved. When defining the translation, involving those approving it can ensure that they don’t get surprises when seeing it and can therefore increase chances of quicker approval. Involving the translation provider early by sharing a draft of the proposed text can help them be familiar with the content.
How tasks are done refers to the methods used for each step. It is good practice to have methods captured in documented procedures. This ensures repeatability and builds in best practices. In many industries, it is a prerequisite to have such activities precisely captured in Standard Operating Procedures. As part of defining the methods, the quality criteria to be met should also be defined. What constitutes an appropriate translation, how will terminology be maintained, how will differences in opinion on wording and syntax be resolved – these could all be captured in a translation quality plan.
To achieve all of the above, you need project management that is likely part of your translation coordinator’s role. There are two aspects to this role:
- Establishing the project as discussed above, ensuring all of the impacted stakeholders are effectively engaged and agree on the time, quality and financial expectations.
- Expediting the delivery of the project through monitoring that steps are delivered on time, people are doing the required tasks appropriately, issues are addressed promptly, budgets are managed and the overall deadlines are met.
Effective planning of the project is a key step in ensuring a right first time and on time translation.
Manage risks and issues
Whilst effective planning is essential, thinks can go wrong and the project team need to address them as they happen. As a precursor to this, the project team should understand the risks and issues associated with the project.
(A simple definition: A risk is something that could go wrong. An issue is a risk that has happened!)
Having contingency plans in place for key risks and things that could go wrong will help ensure a successful project outcome.
In the next article we will look at the third step – Prepare text for translation; tips on how to ensure that the text you are supplying for translation is prepared in way that allows for a high quality translation.
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