A Few Words

Agnieszka Ostrowska

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Making the Most of In-Country Review

Posted by Agnieszka Ostrowska on Oct 8, 2015 10:47:00 AM

in-country-reviewMany organizations rely on “in-country” reviewers to check translations before release. Since no one knows the subject matter, tone, and content better than someone in the company, this is a valuable step for any translation project. However, many reviewers are doing this as an additional task, and just because they are bilingual does not mean they automatically understand the role. Here are some best practices for getting the most from your reviewer and keeping your translation project on time and on budget.

 “The translation is bad”

Too often, reviewers operate without receiving instruction on what feedback is required. Since writing style and phrasing are subjective, “translation quality” is difficult to define, so one person’s poetry can be another person’s poison. Frequently, when reviewers don’t like the style (or even the original source content), they edit heavily and share their opinion that the translation is “bad” or “wrong”. The challenge for the reviewer is to understand the role, which is to confirm that the translation meets the agreed standards they helped to establish. This will create a repeatable and scalable process. 

Establishing standards – for language and reviewers

The saying, “prior preparation prevents poor performance” is especially relevant for translation projects. Here are some suggestions to establish clear expectations with your in-country review team:

  • All in-country reviewers should be briefed in advance on the purpose, scope, and style choices made for the source-language content.

  • In-country reviewers should approve the project translation glossary and style guides in advance of translation.

  • Consider establishing consistent “error” categories (e.g. Accuracy, Language Standards, Readability, and Compliance) and severity levels (e.g. Major, Medium, Minor, and Preferential). Your translation vendor should have a standard quality scoring procedure they can share with you.

  • Introduce the reviewers to your translation vendor, who will share additional briefing points and provide a language liaison to discuss language-related issues.

  • In-country reviewers should be briefed on the project schedule and know when their efforts will be required and for how long. Respecting project milestones will help the translation vendor keep your project on schedule.

  • For larger volumes of work, the translation vendor should provide the in-country reviewers with a preview of the work product (“first page translation”) to get feedback and guidance before the main translation is started.

The review process

Now the process is in motion – translated content has been delivered by your translation vendor and your in-country reviewers sit down to work. First, consider that the role of a professional translator is to express the meaning of the source content accurately and completely in the target language, as though it had been written by a native-speaker. Unless specifically asked, they will not add to or subtract from the content. This guideline applies equally well to your in-country review team. With that in mind, here are some best practices for your in-country reviewers:

  • In-country reviewers should understand that the purpose is collaborative fine-tuning of the translation — they are not being asked to edit the entire translation.

  • In-country reviewers should be aware of the various types of changes they might recommend:

    • Company-specific terminology (this should be communicated as an update to the project glossary).

    • Company-specific “voice” — phrasing that is unique to the company and supports its brand (this should be communicated as an update to the style guide).

    • Correct misrepresentation of the source text by the translation team.

    • Correct objective errors (grammatical, typographical, etc.) — these should not happen, but in the event that they do, the translation vendor should correct them immediately and at no charge.
  • In-country reviewers should also know what not to do:

    • Minor changes based on the personal preferences of the reviewer that do not fall into the categories above. These should be avoided as they add to cost and increase the likelihood of project delay. Personal preferences cannot be codified in the style guide, so they are not repeatable for subsequent translations.

    • They should not re-write the content to fit their view of how the source should have been written (you might be surprised at how common this is). Their job is to review the translation against the source document and verify it meets the company’s objective standards.

    • If your internal team changes mid-project or a different in-country/native-speaker reviews the final work product, make sure they are provided with the same instructions and reference materials used by the original reviewer. Otherwise, they may lose valuable time making suggestions that are not consistent with the instructions.
  • Post-project

    • If edits to the work product are made after the translation vendor has delivered, it is important that those changes be provided to the vendor so that translation the memory database can be updated, keeping future translations consistent. This helps lower your long-term translation costs, maintains quality, and helps reduce turnaround time. 

Having the resources of an in-country review team is a valuable asset for any translation project. Establishing clear expectations for roles and responsibilities – the ground rules – can help keep your projects on schedule and on budget and reduce unnecessary iterations that consume precious time. It also produces good quality, consistent translation and a rewarding experience for the translation team. Elanex is happy to share best practices with you, including our matrix of translation error categories and severity, which you can download by clicking this button:

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Topics: Best Business Practices, Translation Basics

Freelance Translators: The Preferred Solution

Posted by Agnieszka Ostrowska on Jul 23, 2015 11:59:00 AM

self-employed-nutritionistThere’s been much ado lately about the rise of the freelance economy. More workers want the flexibility of independent careers and more companies need freelancers to scale labor efficiently to meet client demands.

Interestingly, the freelance economy is nothing new when it comes to translation services. Freelancers have long been the backbone of the industry. Most professional translators are actually independent contractors…and prefer it that way. The arrangement benefits translators, language service providers, and where it matters the most: the translation customer. Here’s why:

1.  Autonomy. Historically, translators worked together in offices because they needed the infrastructure. Transmitting information was difficult (faxes, banks of dial-up modems and phone lines), transferring money internationally was expensive, and it was difficult to market services to a large enough audience. However, because of the Internet and international payment systems like PayPal, translators no longer need access to an office. Technology has made it very easy for individuals to “hang a shingle” and work as professional full-time translators without going into an office everyday. The world’s best translators, especially those with experience in highly specialized subjects, prefer to work as freelancers and have so much demand they only accept the jobs they want to do. What could be better?

2.  Specialization.  The best translations come from translators who are subject-matter experts as well as linguists. In the same way that it would be very difficult for someone to explain text about a subject (such as electrical engineering or law) with which they are unfamiliar, it is equally difficult for translators to comprehend and fluidly translate a document about a subject they don’t deeply understand. When you don’t know vocabulary or how terminology is standardly used, the translation does not read smoothly. This is especially problematic because English, a common source language, is highly context-sensitive. For example, the term “derivative” is expressed differently when used in a finance, mathematics or legal context. In fact, many “awkward” translations, often dismissed as “translated by a machine,” are done by a translator who simply does not understand what they are reading. They do a very literal or “wooden” translation.

RecognizeExcellence3. Better outcomes. If a company has in-house translators, they must use them preferentially to keep them busy. So if they receive an assignment for a legal translation from Spanish to English, but only have generalists or technical translators available in-house, the economics mean those employees will be asked to perform the translation. In short, the best translator for the job isn’t necessarily doing the job. Additionally, it is impossible to staff for the highs and lows of translation demand. Either the costs would be astronomically high to pay people to sit in a room and not translate (and those costs would be passed on to customers), or they would not have the capacity to take on large volumes of work. Many of the largest traditional translation agencies outsource translation to other in-country translation companies with their own internal teams – with all the aforementioned issues. Technology enables the management of networks of individual freelance professionals to be easily coordinated and scaled. It’s more efficient and more effective.

Knowing this, having a team of freelancers working on your project shouldn’t alarm you, as it is truly to your advantage. However, you should know about your team’s qualifications. If you are unsure, here are three good questions to ask your language service provider:

  1. How does the company find, test and manage the quality of freelance translators?
  2. How does the company use technology to manage large teams of individual translators?
  3. Do team members have experience with the subject matter?

In the end, this is what’s key to know about these independent contractors:  freelance does not mean part-time or not professional. These individuals have both professional degrees and years of experience in their craft. They are the best in their fields and those who are best equipped to handle your translation needs.

Topics: Translation Basics

Controlled Language: The Elements of an Efficient Translation Process

Posted by Agnieszka Ostrowska on Dec 3, 2014 5:45:00 PM

When it comes to writing, it’s best to keep things simple. Though natural language tends to be complex and sometimes ambiguous, written communication should be as clear and concise as possible. At least that is what America’s most influential writing style guide recommends. Strunk and White’s The Elements Strunk_and_Whiteof Style outlines a set of rules that promote plain English composition – and these rules couldn’t be more appropriate for pieces requiring translation.

Aligned with the fundamentals of the writing manual, there is a popular technique promoted by translation service providers known as Controlled Language (CL). By following a rule set similar to the one in the classic slim volume, CL teaches writers to write in a more direct and uniform way, which results in a much more efficient and cost-effective translation process.   

Aligned with the fundamentals of the writing manual, there is a popular technique promoted by translation service providers known as Controlled Language (CL). By following a rule set similar to the one in the classic slim volume, CL teaches writers to write in a more direct and uniform way, which results in a much more efficient and cost-effective translation process.    

What is Controlled Language?

The first CL was developed in the late 1920s by Charles Ogden. By simplifying grammar and using a vocabulary of only 850 words, Ogden created “Basic English” to help non-English speakers learn English in five weeks.

Not far from the original idea, today’s controlled language is a subset of a natural language, obtained by restricting the grammar and vocabulary to reduce or eliminate ambiguity, complexity, and confusion. A controlled language is governed by a more strict set of rules that encourage authors to write content that is easy to understand. Content that is easy to understand is also easy to translate, and therefore human translators and machine translation systems produce better results when translating controlled language text.

Removing Ambiguity

Natural language used in everyday communication tends to be so flexible that it can easily lead to confusing and ambiguous, yet grammatically correct, constructions. This can be especially true of technical writing. The addition of special vocabularies, writing styles, and complex grammar tends to render the text opaque not just to ordinary readers, but to experts as well. The obscurity of a text is amplified by the translation process, where ambiguities can lead to incorrect translations, more ambiguities, delays in the process, and an increase in cost.

The idea of controlled language is to counter the tendency of writers to use complex, confusing or overly-specialized language by promoting clear, consistent and concise writing and thus making translation more efficient.

Practical Examples

Controlled language rules are examples of the CLOUT™ rule set (Controlled Language Optimized for Uniform Translation). The most widely used controlled language today is “Simplified Technical English,” which was developed by the aircraft and defense industry to help create documents that are simple enough to understand for readers with limited command of the English language – and are ultimately easier to translate. Some examples of its rules are:

  • Limit each sentence to no more than 25 words
  • Restrict the length of noun cluster to be no more than 3 words
  • Paragraph limit of no more than 6 sentences
  • Avoid slang and jargon
  • Use “a / an” and “the” wherever possible
  • Use simple verb tenses (past, present and future)
  • Use active voice

Controlled languages differ from language to language as they stem from each natural language and its unique grammar. However, most of the rules outlined above can be applied to many languages to simplify text and reduce ambiguity.

What's in it for me?

Starting a translation with text written in a controlled language will significantly improve the quality and Controlled_Languagesturnaround time of a translation, while reducing the overall cost. In addition to a faster, better and smarter output, your technical writers will also become more efficient, as they improve their writing skills and begin to re-use previously written texts, cutting time from the entire process. CL will also limit the use of inconsistent terminology, encouraging reusability not only at the term level, but also at the phrase and sentence level.

CL has promoted efficiency in communications, which is why it is widely applied to highly-specialized content such as technical documentation, and part as of machine translation and mobile communication technologies. 

The benefits are as clear and simple as the rules of a CL.  Just as Strunk and White’s little book has made a big impact on writing, CL can make a positive impact on your translation process.  .


Topics: Best Business Practices, Resources

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