Many globally active companies have internal translation resources ranging from in-country reviewers to internal translation teams. There are many advantages to having dedicated language resources, including their intimate knowledge of the company’s style, voice, technical terminology – all which help protect their brand around the world. As with any form of vertical integration there are tradeoffs with scalability, cost-efficiency, speed, and possibly not having the best-in-class tools and processes that specialist firms offer. To make sure you are getting the best from your internal resources and in particular, preventing all of your knowledge from “walking out the door every night,” here are a few tips and best practices.
Some companies find themselves facing sudden demand for localized versions of their products, marketing materials, manuals, website, or other content. Often, they locate someone within the company that speaks the needed language – and the in-house translation team is born. Since this person may not be a trained translator, some of the basics might be overlooked. Creating and maintaining a company Glossary and Style Guide formalizes and codifies language choices that the translator (and any future translators) may make and ensures vital consistency for internal terms-of-art and nomenclature.
Similarly, the use of modern Computer-Assisted Translation (CAT) tools might be overlooked. We don’t mean Machine Translation (MT), but instead a translator’s workbench that provides a streamlined environment to perform translation and automatically applies the company glossary for consistency. It also uses Translation Memory (TM) which automatically recycles previously translated sentences and helps suggest translations for similar phrases. A basic CAT tool provides great benefit for quality, speed, and internal-cost savings – your internal translator should not be spending time (and money) translating the same sentence over and over – a common situation for documentation and website revisions.
An added benefit of working with CAT tools is it helps establish best practices for translation process. For example, they encourage more robust import/export routines for software (external resource files), websites (XML), and documentation instead of the trap of using an Excel spreadsheet for translated strings or error-prone cut/paste into page layout software.
Internal teams bring valuable continuity and unmatched company/product knowledge to the translation process. However, when faced with large volumes of translation and tight deadlines, it’s very difficult for them to exceed the typical throughput of 2,500 words per day - that's only about 10 pages of text. While they might be able to reach higher productivity levels for short periods, without a second set of eyes to check the translation the potential for simple human error creeps in. For larger volumes of translation work, consider partnering with a professional translation services firm. Since you will have an established glossary, style guide, and translation memory, these will help with consistency and quality. For many clients, their original internal translators become “language leads,” responsible for review, answering language-specific questions, and otherwise maintaining the company’s language intellectual property investment. (For more tips, see “Making the most of In-Country Review”)
It is a luxury to have internal translation resources. By using simple best practices of a Glossary, Style Guide, and CAT tools, your firm can adapt to increases in volumes and languages more efficiently. Partnering with a professional translation provider is a way to bring scale – and can also provide benchmark metrics for cost-efficiency (words/day of output/dollar) with the benefit of fully variable costs. Some firms may let your internal teams use their CAT tools bringing you the best of both worlds. Let us know how we can help you get the most from your in-house team, we'd be happy to share our experiences.