Although businesses like ours are often called “translation agencies” or “language service providers,” we prefer to call ourselves “language service partners.” This choice reflects our business philosophy and the kind of client relationships we want to develop.
What is a language services partner?
In a blog post, our friend Valerie Schlitt explains why her most successful lead generation clients were less like customers and more like dance partners. Valerie’s analysis of key performance metrics revealed that client involvement predicted a 75% greater chance of long-term success. Collaboration, communication, and mutual support make for great client relationships and great outcomes. VSA has grown from a one-woman shop to one of Philadelphia’s 100 fastest growing companies. Her emphasis on partnership has served her and her clients well.
At MTM LinguaSoft, we strive to work collaboratively with our clients. However, it’s not always clear to our clients who should be our primary “point person” in the partnership. We translate content for a wide variety of industries, and we work in multiple media. As a result, our contacts hold all sorts of different professional titles. Oftentimes the content itself is developed by a different department (or organization) than that of the person who is tasked with having it localized.
Who should be our “point person?” The best point of contact in an organization depends in part on what kind of content is being localized.
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Clients in manufacturing, life sciences, and IT often require highly technical translations for manuals, sell sheets, product specifications, safety data sheets, technical drawings, and so forth. It’s not unusual for the request for translation to come from the sales and marketing departments, but the best points of contact for the translation workflow are technical writers or product managers. These are the people best suited to field requests for terminology clarification, and they also have access to the native files from the programs used to create the technical content.
This type of project goes more smoothly when we have access to:
- Editable versions of the documents that are compatible with translation productivity tools. For example, translations of CAD drawings will be less expensive with faster turnaround times if DXF files are provided instead of .pdfs.
- Glossaries of technical terms. Creating a termbase and validating the translations of technical terms at the launch of a project improves accuracy and consistency across content. In addition, clear guidelines for terminology use speeds the process of in-country review.
If an organization is working with a creative team, it’s always best for us to work directly with them. They can provide a creative brief to describe the tone and intent of the message while ensuring cultural relevance for the audience. The same applies when localizing websites, promotional materials, and ads. The whole process goes more smoothly if we have a contact in the creative department or at the agency.
In the best case-scenario, we communicate with creatives at the start of the project to advise on best practices for localization. When best practices are followed for content creation, the localization process will be quicker, and less expensive, and the end result will be better. We can help with keyword research and planning for international SEO at the start of the project.
For subtitles or foreign language voiceovers, access to a timed or story-boarded copy of the script will streamline the process. If a client knows that a video will be localized, introducing us to the creative team ahead of time allows us to explain best practices for creating a localization friendly product.
Access to the native design files speeds the process. Translation productivity tools (CAT tools) can process a variety of file formats to isolate the translatable text from the formatting tags so the linguist can focus on the text. The translated content is then exported with the formatting intact, preserving the layout and design. Translations from English into other languages usually require adjustments for text expansion and possible re-design to accommodate a right-to-left layout or to substitute culturally appropriate images. Working directly with the design team speeds the process.
In some cases, the client might want to save money by having its own design team do the reformatting, especially for languages with Latin-based alphabets. In general, however, it’s best to use bilingual DTP resources, and in the case of Asian languages, it’s mandatory. If Chinese line breaks aren’t placed correctly, the meaning of a sentence can change. Working with native speakers guarantees that the text is correctly formatted and is suitable for audiences from other cultures and locales.
Sometimes a client comes to us with a .pdf of content that was created for them. If the client does not have the native design files and has lost touch with the person or agency, we can re-create the design, but additional costs are involved.
Websites, software, and e-learning
The more complex the project, the more communication is needed between our project manager and the development team. Websites, software, and e-learning require localization engineering to make sure that all the translatable content, including meta data and other “unseen” information, has been identified and isolated for translation. We’ve written elsewhere about tactics for safely separating content and code for software and websites. Regardless of the method you’ve chosen, our project managers will need to be in touch with the developers.
Partner with us.
It’s our goal to stay in step with our clients as their global business matures and their multilingual communication programs expand. Building a strong partnership leads to long term success for both parties.
Contact us for expert translation and localization services.