Your company has a technical translation project in mind and they want you to handle the arrangements. This is a new experience for you. In the best case scenario, the technical materials have been prepared with translation in mind. (See the earlier post by Myriam Siftar, “For Technical Translation, Best Practices Start with Technical Communicators.”) But, even if best practices haven’t been followed to this point, you can still facilitate the process by asking questions before you search for a language partner. The answers will help you choose your partner wisely and will make the translation process faster and more efficient.
Has your company used any translation partners in the past?
If you don’t know the answer, ask around and find out, and also see if you can get copies of the previously translated materials.
How will you provide the material to be translated?
For translation purposes, an editable electronic file is preferable. If all you’ve been given is hard copy or a scanned document, ask if the document is available in an editable file format like any Microsoft Office program, a design file like InDesign or QuarkXpress, an html file (if it is from the web), or some other electronic format. If you’ve been given a PDF created from another program, see if the original files are available.
A translation agency may be able to give you a quote, or at least an estimate, from a scan or fax, but they cannot make full use of the latest computer-aided translation (CAT) tools without an electronic version of the source text. CAT tools make the translation process more efficient and help to maintain internal consistency in terminology. If you expect to reuse any of the content in future translations, working from electronic files is particularly important, because the translation agency can maintain a Translation Memory for the next project.
What do you want back?
Do you just need the translated text back in a Word document, or do you need to have the text formatted like the original?
What about text in graphics, if any? Does that text need translation? If so, are desktop publishing services necessary?
Who is the target audience?
Is the translation targeted at any particular country or region?
If your company wants outside materials translated for its own use, who is going to use the and for what purpose? For example, a company might want to translate a foreign-language article about its product for external marketing purposes. This might require a carefully proofread, fluent translation. On the other hand, perhaps the translation is needed for internal research. In that case, a one-pass translation, though it may not be beautifully written, may be adequate. Perhaps even a summary might serve this purpose. The quality level needed will affect the price of the project.
Can you provide any reference materials?
If the material to be translated is about your company’s own products or services, it is likely to have specialized industry terminology as well as terms and brand names unique to your company. Company brochures, websites, product photos, previously translated documents, and other materials can provide context for the translator. If your company uses style guidelines or glossaries, they should be provided as well.
At the very least, if you cannot answer questions about the content of the material yourself, you should know who can answer those questions and be able to put the translation agency in touch with the person or pass technical questions to them.
When do you need the translation back?
Make sure you know when the company wants to have the translation services completed. If there is a definite deadline pass that along, even if it seems far in the future. The work may require more time that anyone at the company imagines, especially if they have no experience with translation and if the project requires additional services such as desktop publishing, or localization and/or review (in the case of foreign language websites and foreign-language versions of software). If company expectations are unreasonable, you will want to know this as soon as possible.
Does the company have its own reviewer?
Sometimes companies want to have their own reviewers check the completed translations. An in-country reviewer who is also familiar with the industry can make sure that the terminology and usages are correct and that the tone is appropriate for the intended audience. It is best to know at the outset whether the company will use its own reviewer and who that reviewer will be. The translation agency may advise preparing and translating an initial glossary of commonly used terms. The reviewer should look this over before the rest of the translation goes forward. Also, you will want to be sure to coordinate with the reviewer so that the reviewer sets aside the time needed and doesn’t hold up the process. Request our in-country review guidelines.
Now that you have answers to these questions, you are ready for the next step: Choosing the Right Technical Translation Agency.
This is the second in a three-part series on technical translation. In our last post we looked at the definition of technical translation.