One project/many languages: A step-by-step guide to a stress free job How to Buy Translation Services translation jobs
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One project/many languages: A step-by-step guide to a stress free job

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Does this sound familiar?

Olga Pechnenko Kopp photoYour 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 information!”

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 languages.

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 project.
  • 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 audiences.
  • 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 and time!
  • 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 project expert”)

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