A Few Words

Glossaries: A Translator's Best Tool to Ensure Consistency and Quality

Posted by Jun Kurihara on Jan 7, 2015 11:54:00 AM

When it comes to customer concerns, speed is often at the top of the list. This is especially true for first-time or infrequent translation buyers. Often, translation is unplanned, and sometimes upstream production delays can create significant pressure to deliver the translated materials quickly. Regardless of cause, urgency to complete a translation project as fast as possible is the norm.

Since a single translator can translate only about 2,500 words – about 10 pages – per day, a very common practice is to divide the content and distribute the work across multiple translators. Having a team of Time_Zonestranslators working in different time zones (“following the sun”) keeps projects rolling 24 hours per day, effectively tripling daily throughput. 

However, having a team of translators working on a single project presents its own problems. The overall project may be completed faster but when the individual pieces are combined they may have issues with consistency. For example, one translator may translate prescription drugs into Spanish as medicamentos recetados while the second says medicamentos con receta and the third chooses medicamentos bajo receta médica. Each may be correct, but using all three in the same document affects the readability and perception of quality of the materials – it reads like a poor translation. It would be similarly confusing if this article mixed the terms “glossary,” “lexicon,” and “vocabulary” with no distinction or context. What’s the best way to prevent these types of problems before they happen?  The answer lies in the preparation of a glossary.

The Power of a Glossary

A good glossary is a translator’s best friend. With minimal effort to prepare, glossaries save both time and money in the long run and help ensure quality and consistency.

Because many quality issues involve the mistranslations of key words and technical concepts, good glossaries remove a significant source of possible translation issues before a project even begins. glossaries_HERO_FINALGlossaries answer questions about terms that are highly technical, have multiple translations or meanings, are vague or open to mistranslation, are non-translatable or require marketing input (e.g. tag lines, product names, etc.).

Glossaries do more than prevent mistranslation. They also help translation service providers understand their client’s communication preferences. With a clear understanding of preferred terms, translators can achieve the voice and tone a client is looking for. A child’s stuffed animal in the US is called a plush in England. Both are correct, but the glossary will give the client the opportunity to formally document which option is preferred.

Tips for Building a Glossary

Although translation service providers will do the bulk of the work, compiling a glossary requires a commitment from the client as well. Clients should identify native language stakeholders from each region to perform reviews, stakeholders who can set aside sufficient time to review and comment on the terms suggested by the service provider. Reviewers might be engineers, lawyers or doctors who decide on technical terms, or they might be from sales and marketing, deciding on words that affect the brand in their local markets.

When choosing which words to include, focus on those that are specific to your company and product instead of industry-standard phrases and terms. For example, if you build cars, you’d unlikely need to include the word “engine” in your translation glossary. You would, however, want to include a consistent translation for your patented “vehicle stability and traction control system” to protect its image abroad.

Glossaries should also contain any false or undesirable translations for a specific term. This includes terms that are not meant to be translated. For instance, Burger King has decided that “Whopper” is notTranslation translated on their Spanish-language menus. But the “Double Whopper” gets a slight tweak on Spanish-language menus with “Doble Whopper.”

As glossaries can eventually include thousands of terms and phrases, it’s important to make sure that your translation service provider has an automated integration of the glossary into the translation process. Translators will not necessarily always know when to check if a word or phrase has a glossary entry, and they can’t lose time looking up every word in a separate glossary document. Instead, the translation service provider should utilize technology that automatically tells the translator when the current word has a glossary entry. This fundamental level of automation ensures that the translator doesn’t waste time and never misses a glossary term.

Finally, it’s important to think of your glossary as a living document that must be maintained. Maintenance means adding, changing or deleting terms as necessary. Although compiling a glossary may seem like a chore, it really is a small up-front investment that will yield big returns. 


Topics: Best Business Practices, Resources, Translation Basics, Translation Tools

Machine Translation: Isn't there an app for that?

Posted by Elanex Marketing Team on Dec 10, 2014 11:19:00 AM

Digital, mobile, social, always-on, all-accessible world

When it comes to communicating, we have very few limitations. Thanks to technology, distance is no longer a challenge. Instead, the last barrier preventing us from connecting with anyone in this always-on, all-accessible world is the lack of a common language.  

But, of course, there is an app for that too.  The question is: Does it deliver?

Long before Google, linguists and computer scientists in the 50's searched for the Holy Grail of translation: english-indonesian_3software that could translate as well as humans. The software is known as Machine Translation (MT). While the power of automated translation can’t be denied, there’s a reason we haven’t retired the hundreds of thousands of professional freelance translators in the world.    

The Challenge: Comprehension vs. Communication

The current state of MT is “good enough” for comprehension in most major language pairs, especially those involving English and European languages. Today’s MT systems provide a good to very good idea of the meaning of the text. This is often called “gisting” – you get the gist or essence of the text. For this reason, MT is gaining acceptance for the translation of content that, due to the cost of professional translation, normally would not be translated at all - emails, blogs, user-generated content, etc. Many of the quick and easy translation apps and services use the power (and low cost) of MT in their products and services. However, there is a difference between comprehension and the ability to communicate in a foreign language. MT alone is not suitable for official communications, such as legal contracts or proposals, or for most customer-facing content such as company websites, user guides, technical manuals, etc. Unfortunately, for those unfamiliar with other languages (attention Americans), the naïve assumption is that MT systems provide a fluid translation and they blindly use free or low-cost MT services to translate important content. The easiest way to understand what a native speaker of your translation is reading is to machine translate something from another language into your own. You’ll see that while the translation may be understandable, it will not inspire confidence. More critically, due to the nuance of language, it may not even be accurate.

Rules vs. Statistics

In order to appreciate the capabilities of MT, it’s important to understand the two popular approaches to it: Rules vs. Statistics.

In rule-based MT, words are translated from one language to another following specific grammar rules. Government research agencies in particular have invested large sums chasing this method. But what about the exceptions inconveniently found in all language grammars? Programming a set of rules that completely define a language has proven to be impossible, and, as a result, rule-based MT so far has not achieved a broad level of acceptance.

In response to rule-based shortcomings, researchers invented systems that "learn" by analyzing large amounts of already translated text to create statistical probability models for how new text should be translated. These systems, known as statistical machine translation (SMT), have become very advanced in the last few years (Google Translate is a good example) but the results are highly variable. The results are greatly influenced by a) the size of the training corpora, or collection of aligned bilingual texts that the engine can use to “learn” from; and b) specific terminology (glossary) that further “tunes” the engine. Some companies have been very successful in using SMT systems for internal documentation when properly trained with previously translated materials specific to their company.

By combining MT with expert translators, large volumes of content can be quickly translated and verified by human eyes at about 4 times the speed of standard translation. Good quality MT translations can be "fixed" by human editors in a fraction of the time it would take them to translate from scratch, significantly lowering costs.

A Solution? Post-Editing

The drive to improve MT results involves what is called "post-editing," which consists of having professional translators edit the machine translation output. This is often called PEMT, for post-editing of machine translation. If the machine translation is of reasonable quality, this approach can significantly reduce time and cost. There are two views on how to use PEMT. One is to simply improve the translation to correct terminology and to make it more readable, not overly-focusing on grammar or writing style. This can produce readable translations at a fraction of the cost and speed of a standard translation. The other approach is to use intensive editing to reach human translation quality levels. The result is much better but the time and cost can reach those of human translation, depending on the complexity of the text being translated. An additional benefit of the latter approach is that the result can be fed back into the MT engine for tuning purposes, leading to continual improvements of future translations. Some companies have decided that the long-term benefit is worth keeping translation costs for PEMT at traditional human translation levels, knowing that one day they will receive large time and cost benefit. However neither approach works if the machine translation is poor to begin with. This can be understood by anyone that has tried to edit a very poorly written text. At some point, it is faster to start from scratch and the output is of higher quality. A translator that needs to post edit poor MT output would do better to simply start over. This is a very important consideration when evaluating a PEMT solution.

The Future of Translation Services

It’s hard to know what the future holds, but we are certainly seeing an increase in the use of MT in everyday communication. Translation is becoming a utility embedded in many devices and apps, helping to bring down language barriers in everyday interactions.

NTT DoCoMo’s JSpeak is one such example.  The mobile carrier’s app is helping tourists navigate Japan by instantly translating spoken Japanese into English or other languages and vice versa. The service MT1offers a preinstalled list of over 700 handy phrases for transportation, restaurants, hotels, shopping, hospitals and other common encounters.

Google is also helping globetrotters with its recent purchase of Word Lens. The app allows you to point your smartphone’s camera at simple text and have it immediately translated into your native language. The app, which can translate signs, menus and even books, replaces the words in the live view onscreen with their English equivalents.

Microsoft is also testing the MT waters with a new feature that instantaneously translates Skype conversations. The software provides an audio translation in a male or female voice of everything being said, plus an onscreen text transcript.

TAUS, the Translation Automation User Society, continues to highlight the necessity and demand for translation in all markets across all industries today, and it’s catching on. For example, in April 2014, the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) launched a Global Communication Plan to help create a multilingual speech translation system implemented across different sectors, such as medicine, tourism, finance and even disaster planning and prevention.

You might think this paints a bleak picture for human translators, but MT technology has a long way to go before it can fully replace professional human translation when accuracy and communication count. Moreover, use of MT has been shown to increase demand for professional services once companies learn the benefit of connecting with customers around the world in their own language. A recent report by Common Sense Advisory found consumers overwhelmingly prefer to make purchases in their mother tongue. While simple MT might help a business make itself understood, only a human can make the reader feel like you’re really speaking their language.

To learn more about Elanex’s PEMT solution, check out VeriFast(sm).

Topics: Machine Translation, Translation Basics, Translation Tools

Style Guides: The Importance of Consistency

Posted by Elanex Marketing Team on Oct 30, 2014 9:18:00 AM

Companies and organizations use standard style guides to set the rules on the look and feel of their content and design. These guides help marketers, copywriters, and graphic designers use the correct wording, colors and design elements to ensure brand uniformity.  For example, Skype requires that all print materials use the Chaletbook typeface, while Apple says its channel signatures may only be shown in all black or all white.  Articles printed in The Economist never carry a byline.

One might say that a style guide’s major purpose is to ensure consistency. We tend to agree.  Translation projects often require several translators working on a single project around the clock.  Each translator may have his or her own style resulting in differences between sections.  That’s why we recommend developing translation style guides before the start of any project.  Translation style guides set standards before translation begins, which helps companies save time and money.

 What Are Translation Style Guides?

Companies outline their stylistic and editorial preferences in translation style guides to effectively embody a company’s product or message for foreign audiences in targeted markets. Unlike ordinary style guides, translation style guides are implemented when businesses seek oversea ventures with the purpose of creating structure and uniformity and avoiding cultural clash.

When businesses begin to expand around the world, they strive to maintain the essence of their products. Global businesses like Coca-Cola use different slogans for different countries, but keep the same slogans for countries that share cultural similarities (Open happiness in the U.S and Canada; Destapa la felicidad inGuide1 Spain and Colombia; Abre a felicidade in Brazil and Portugal).  Translation style guides aid in the process of changing company slogans, campaigns, and branding to avoid cultural missteps. They create the structure necessary for editors to implement uniformity in foreign markets, while still altering it to appeal to the target foreign audience.

And it is here that translation style guides may play the most pivotal role.  Without a detailed translation style guide, translators may not actually understand who their intended audience is, resulting in “bad” translation.  For example, it may be appropriate to speak to the American guests of a luxury hotel in New York City in a conversational manner but Arab guests of the same chain in Saudi Arabia expect to be addressed in a formal manner.

How Are Translation Style Guides Created?

Global translation service providers create translation style guides by honing in on the editorial standards and goals of a company, while including the cultural and linguistic standards set by the target audience.

The complexity of translation makes creating a translation style guide difficult. To avoid this obstacle, translation services need to consider many areas of editing – stylistic preferences, foreign language linguistic standards, content translation, etc. – to optimize foreign communications.

The translation service providers must have a comprehensive understanding of the company’s goal in order to create an effective translation style guide. They must be aware of the components – tone, target guide2audience, etc. – that deliver company’s goals.  With the correct understanding and an effective translation style guide, global translation services can help alleviate the decision-making process and reduce revisal time – and ultimately cut costs in the long run.   

So before you start your next translation project, be sure to save yourself some headaches and make sure your translation service provider is clear on the following:

  • First or third person?
  • Gender specific?
  • Informal or Formal?
  • Purpose of materials?
  • Who is our audience and what do they expect/want?
  • Currency, date/time, units of measure conversions?
  • Required fonts?
  • Are there any items that do not require translation (brand names/trademarks/proper names/titles/websites, etc.)?
  • Are there specific terms, abbreviations or acronyms to be used?
  • Are there punctuation preferences?




Topics: Best Business Practices, Resources, Translation Basics, Translation Tools

Translation and Interpretation: What's the Difference?

Posted by Elanex Marketing Team on Oct 10, 2014 9:30:00 AM

Generally, the difference between a single- and double-edged sword (beyond the fact that one sword has one edge and the other has two) is rarely understood or seldom explored until you actually have to use one. 

The same might be said for translation and interpretation, which are often confused as both involve adapting one language to another. 

On the surface, the primary difference between translation and interpretation is the medium: written vs. oral. People often interchange the two as both disciplines require highly skilled bilingual professionals with a passion for connecting people. In the same way that being bilingual does not qualify one to be a translator, speaking another language does not qualify one to be an interpreter.

But looking beyond the surface, many differences become apparent. Interpretation occurs in real-time, while translations are delayed. A translation requires an original text, which can be studied and improved using resources such as dictionaries and glossaries to produce an accurate document. Though interpreters aim to be as accurate as possible, often times they may choose to omit certain details in order to stay live. While both translators and interpreters adapt metaphors and idioms, interpreters must also capture elements such as tone and inflection. 

Furthermore, the differences between the two forms parallel that of the swords. A single-edge sword 1280510284-translator2handler must direct the sword in one direction just like the translator typically only works in one direction, translating into their mother tongue. A person handling a double-edged sword must fluently employ both sides; in the case of the interpreter, fluently interpret in both languages. But the specialization doesn’t end there for interpreters. Different settings and occasions require different types of interpretation, which is why it is important to consider the application when seeking interpretation services. The following describes how each form works, and when and where to use it. 

Simultaneous Interpretation: Simultaneous Interpretation requires accurate and complete translation, orally and at the same rate of speech as the speaker, with only a few seconds of lag time. An interpreter is usually seated in a soundproof booth where he or she clearly sees and hears the source-language speaker. The interpreter orally translates the information into a microphone, which can be heard by target-language listeners via earphones. This form of interpretation is used when the interpretation must be in real time, in an event with many contributors, or when the other forms of interpretation are unpractical.

• Consecutive Interpretation: This form is applied when the interpreter is in the same room as the participants and is interpreting both sides of the conversation, with the speakers pausing when the interpreter speaks. Consecutive interpretation is used when there is sufficient time available, with fewer participants, for elaborate agreements or negotiations, or simply when there is not enough space or budget for the booths required for simultaneous interpretation.

• Whisper Interpretation or chuchotage: Similar to simultaneous interpretation, this form has the interpreter sitting close to the listener and whispering the interpretation while the speaker continue to talk. Unlike with sound-proof booth interpreting, this method requires no equipment and can be carried out anywhere with no preparation. Chuchotage interpretation is often used in circumstances where the majority of a group speaks one language, and a minority (ideally no more than three persons) do not speak that language.

• Health Care Interpretation: Health care interpreters facilitate communication between patients and their physicians, nurses, lab technicians and other healthcare providers. When a patient and healthcare professional do not speak the same language, it is nearly impossible for even the most skilled clinician to provide high-quality healthcare services without accurate interpreting performed by a trained, qualified interpreter who is familiar with medical terminology. If family members, friends or staff who are not trained as healthcare interpreters try to interpret in this setting, errors in understanding and/or communication may occur, posing grave risks to the patient and significant potential liability to the healthcare provider or institution.

• Telephone Interpretation: Telephone interpreting is a service that connects human interpreters via telephone to individuals who wish to speak to each other but do not speak the same language. The telephone interpreter converts the spoken language from one language to another, enabling listeners and speakers to understand each other. Interpretation over the telephone most often takes place in consecutive mode, which means that the interpreter waits until the speaker finishes speaking before delivering the interpretation into the other language. Telephone interpreting is often an attractive option for business. It is relatively inexpensive and calls can be set up quickly, making it ideal for some healthcare and emergency service situations. However, most interpreters agree that face-to-face interpretation is preferred because they can see the body language and other non-verbal clues of the speakers.

In the same way you wouldn't call an electrician to fix a leaky faucet, now you know who to call when you need the services of a professional translator or interpreter.



Free Download: Localized List of Languages for Your Website!

Topics: Resources, Translation Basics

A Quick Guide to Low Cost Translation: Can You Afford It?

Posted by Elanex Marketing Team on Sep 17, 2014 1:45:00 PM

The old adage is true: You get what you pay for… especially when it comes to translation.

Cost is typically a major factor in most business decisions, but keep this in mind: cheap translations are cheap for a reason. You can’t get a good translation at rock-bottom prices unless someone is working below market rates, and chances are it’ll be missing some of the added value and, more importantly, the assurances that come with a professional service.

TranslationFirst-time translation buyers often choose the least expensive option because they don’t appreciate how translation works. Before using a professional service, many simply rely upon someone they know who “speaks the language” or use free online tools such as Google Translate. The results can range from embarrassing to inaccurate -- or worse. Simply put, language translation is a craft, not unlike writing or graphic design, and the experience of the individual translators is highly correlated with good quality results and the appropriate cost structure.

Pricing will vary from company to company so make sure you understand exactly what you’re getting before you make a decision. Sometimes cheap means non-native translators working in an unfamiliar language. Sometimes cheap means skipping important steps or quality reviews. Sometimes it means using generalists that don’t have knowledge of the terminology or content. You wouldn’t ask an electrician to fix a leaky faucet. Similarly someone that knows nothing about due diligence or electrical equipment will be challenged to reasonably translate specialized information.

If you’re in the market for professional translation services, consider the following before jumping at the lowest price:

• Does this price include sentence-by-sentence editing by a linguist to guard against mistakes?
• Are the translators subject-matter experts?
• Is it machine translation?
• If machine, will it be post-edited by a qualified translator, and to what degree?
• Does this price include layout editing or review in the final form?
• What is the warranty for mistakes?
• Does this price include returning the text in the original document, or do you have to cut/paste?



Free Download: Localized List of Languages for Your Website!



Topics: Machine Translation, Best Business Practices, Translation Basics

Three Ways to Optimize the Translation Process

Posted by Elanex Marketing Team on Aug 20, 2014 8:22:00 PM

They say prior preparation prevents poor performance. This especially applies to translation: the process and the outcome can be much improved if the content was prepared with translation in mind. Selecting the right translation company is an important ingredient. Taking a few extra steps to ensure the source copy is translation-ready is equally important. A well-prepared source text will not only reduce costs by making it easier to translate, it will enable consistency in both the tone and message.

Since you are investing in translation, you have already committed to communicating with your customers in a meaningful way. So make sure you get the most of your translation service provider. Here are three simple steps that will improve your content and optimize your translation process:

Step #1: Basic Proofreading 

Basic does not mean quick and easy; basic means that this is the most fundamental, non-negotiable step. Review the source text for typographical errors and mistakes in grammar, style, and spelling. Beyond that, spelling_errorsmake sure the sentences are clear and concise and in consistent voice, tense, and gender.  You have to start off with grammatically correct content to get an accurate translation.

Step #2: Your Voice, Your Style

Communicating in a consistent manner will help you build meaningful relationships with your customers. The fact of the matter is once you’ve engaged an audience, there are certain expectations in the way you communicate that make it a genuine experience. An inconsistent voice is at best hard to read and at worst does not inspire loyalty. Collect the essence of your company’s tone, messages, and vocabulary in a translation style guide – just like you would prepare for an ad agency. It is important to brief your translation provider with this information when you commission the translation.

Establish a consistent format, develop key messages, and create a glossary of frequently used terms. It can really pay off. You will benefit from a smooth, seamless, and cost-effective translation process.

Step #3: Simple is Good   Proofreading-Tips-for-Writers-without-Editors-595x240

Unnecessarily complex language, such as jargon and idiomatic expressions, may get lost in translation. Sports analogies don’t translate, for example. Write in short, declarative sentences in the active voice.     Sentences with multiple subjects or meandering prose may be extremely  time-consuming or even impossible for the translator to accurately  recreate. This ultimately effects the turnaround time and price of the  translation. 

 It goes without saying that working with a trusted and respected translation provider is an essential element for an effective translation process. These simple upfront steps will save you a lot of headaches and enable a smooth translation project. 

 Free Download:  5 Questions to Ask Your Translation Service Provider


Topics: Best Business Practices, Resources, Translation Basics

Legal Translation: Why Subject Matter Specialists are a Must!

Posted by Elanex Marketing Team on Aug 6, 2014 11:12:00 AM

Legal translation is hardly child’s play, but child’s play may be the best way to illustrate just how tricky legal translation can be. Let’s use leapfrog as an example. If you’re reading this in the U.S., chances are the term conjures up visions of children vaulting over each other’s stooped backs. The game isn’t just popular among American children. French and German children play it too. French kids know it as sauté-mouton (sheep jump) while German kids call it Bockspringen.

But leapfrog doesn’t necessarily refer to a game: in England it is a type of legal appeal that goes straight from the High Court to the House of Lords, bypassing the Court of Appeal due to sufficient public importance. When translating this British legal term into German, the correct translation is Sprungrevision. However, if a translator isn’t knowledgeable about these two legal systems, the translation would likely be Bockspringen, which is very wrong.

The leapfrog example shows us why legal translations are considered some of the most difficult. Accurate legal translations require knowledge of the legal nuances in various countries, not just word-for-word translation.  

Due to differences in judiciary systems and procedures, legal terms used in one country will frequently have an alternate meaning in another. Moreover, legal terms can have different meanings even when countries expertshare the same language. To add yet another complication, inaccurate interpretations or poorly translated legal text can result in serious implications for all parties involved. 

The system-bound nature of legal text requires more than a language match from your translator. When selecting a translation service to provide international legal support, look for competencies in three specific areas: 1. knowledge of the legal systems of the source and target languages; 2. familiarity with the relevant legal terminology; and 3. competency in the target language's legal writing style.

The process of translating simple language is hard enough, but when translating specialized terms with cultural and legal intricacies, the quality bar is raised even higher for translation service providers. In order to be effective in this demanding line of work, your translator must have the right set of skills and relevant academic background as there is no room for mistakes in legal documents.

Keep in mind that while it is possible to find direct translations for technical terms, leapfrog translates to deer-jumping in German.

Free Download:  5 Questions to Ask Your Translation Service Provider

Topics: Legal Translation, Translation Basics

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