One project/many languages: A step-by-step guide to a stress free job
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Does this sound familiar?
company has just developed a new idea for a new product.
The product has passed the research phase, which required
a considerable investment of time, people and money. Your
company has calculated the developmental cost and developed
a promotion plan. You, the product manager, know that all
of your carefully crafted marketing copy, originally written
in English, will require translation into all of the languages
spoken in your company’s international target markets.
Even though you fully understand the importance of this,
the process of new product development has consumed all
of your time. You’ve started the countdown for the
release date of the new product and then you suddenly remember,
“ooops, I forgot to translate the marketing and product
How many languages were there again...?
10? 12? 21?
You are confident that your translation
vendor will be able to complete all of the necessary translations
in time—after all, there are only a few documents
that need to be translated. So, you call your translation
vendor’s account representative, and she tells you
that it will take at least two weeks to complete the entire
translation. “Why!?” you ask.
She tells you that those few documents you
sent her contain approximately 20K words, and your project
will require extensive rewrites due to its heavy use of
marketing jargon. You don’t understand—how is
it possible? You decide to call a few other translation
vendors, and they give you the same answer. You start to
panic because it looks like the product will not be released
on time, and you are going to be responsible for the delay.
Shall we rewind?
Let’s rewind this potential nightmare
and see if you could have a less stressful time dealing
with THOSE translations. Below you will find a step by step
guide to a stress free translation project into multiple
Let’s say you have a 20K word
marketing project. A translator can translate, on average,
1500 words/day. This will require 13 working days for the
translation itself. Add an additional 2-3 days for editing.
Include at least one business day for project management
and QA. For a translation project of this size and type,
allow for at least 17 business days. Of course, each project
is unique and requires an individual analysis.
- Start thinking ahead. Translation
is performed by humans and they will need some real time
to work on your project. Note the formula at the right
to see how the size of the projects affects the delivery.
- Write your copy with an international
audience in mind. Have your technical and marketing
writers create copy that has consistent terminology and
avoids complicated sentence structure. Translators will
be able to finish your project in an accurate, timely
fashion if the meaning you are trying to convey is clear.
- Involve your translation vendor at
the first stages of the project. Contact your translation
vendor as soon as you know some translation will be involved
in your project and give her the approximate date of the
release, the target locales, the anticipated volume of
words, etc. The more detailed information you can provide
about the project, the better she can help you.
Further ways to lower your stress level
at translation time include:
- Maintain all of the editable files in
easily accessible, logical directory trees, and keep track
of who authored and revised the content. Web help content,
for instance, cannot be optimally translated if your translation
vendor only has a website URL to retrieve it from. Likewise,
PDFs cannot be optimally edited or translated without
the original source files from which they were created.
Do you want to find yourself at the end of a project on
the phone with your web and technical documentation team
trying to track down HTML and Quark files?
- Keep track of all of the artwork and
its editable versions in a similar fashion, especially
the ones that contain text. The same rule applies here.
If your translation vendor has to re-create graphics from
scratch because you can’t find the original Illustrator
files, this will add considerable time and money to your
- For reference purposes and ensuring terminology
consistency in the translation, maintain a glossary of
specific terms that your company internally uses. While
your translation vendor should have specific subject matter
experts available for your project, who thoroughly know
your industry’s terminology, if you have acronyms
and terms specific to your product offerings, these may
require translation and explanation to your international
- If you plan on requesting an in country
review (i.e., an independent review by one of your regional
offices, for instance) post-translation, begin planning
for it at the start of the project, as it will affect
the time needed for the project to be completed. Of course,
let your translation vendor know you intend to have the
content independently reviewed.
- Don’t send the draft of your documents—wait
until the final version is available. This saves you money
- Remember that it is possible to assemble
a team of multiple translators for big projects to shave
days off of the turnaround time—but the consistency
of the translation increasingly deteriorates with each
additional translator put on a project.
- For large projects we recommend you develop
a translation glossary—before submitting the final
version of your content for translation, create a list
of key words and phrases to be translated first, and then
ask your regional offices to review the glossary. This
procedure alone could save you a lot of time in the long
run, and allows the regional offices to have input into
the process at the beginning.
Obviously, this is a general list that can
be applied to a variety of projects where multilingual content
is a necessity. Each individual project, especially a larger,
time-consuming one, will have its unique problems, goals
and criteria that will allow for modification and customization
of this list to meet those specific needs.
I hope that this list will help you make
your next project less stressful, and help you plan for
a successful international product launch. If the best of
plans go awry and circumstances beyond your control create
a scenario that is less than ideal, at least you have good
information to understand the challenges that you and your
vendor will face. I am here to answer any further questions
you may have and ensure your success with projects of all
shapes and sizes. (Send
all of your queries to Olga, your “stress free translation
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