7 Translation Questions Answered: Tips for Working with a Translation Agency

1. How do I know I’m getting an accurate translation?

Translation agencies have different processes for ensuring translation quality. We’ve found it most effective to implement checks and balances at every stage of the process.

All of our translations pass through two levels of quality control. First, the text is translated by a qualified linguist. Then, it is passed along for editing, performed by a second qualified translator who fine-tunes the translation and double checks for accuracy. Next, we have a third language professional conduct quality control to make sure the deliverables meet our standards and conform to client specifications.

Of course, the caliber of the linguists also has a direct impact on the quality of the final translation. This begins by selecting linguists who are subject matter experts. We also find that monitoring linguist performance on an ongoing basis is an effective means of ensuring you receive top-notch, accurate translations. By having both a translator and an editor review each text, it adds checks and balances to the process and holds each linguist accountable for producing high-quality work every single time.

2. How does the translation process work?

We like to start by ironing out the details. By having an upfront discussion about things like target audience, reading level, subject matter, special terminology, document format, and turnaround time, we can make sure everyone’s on the same page. If you have your content ready, we will examine and analyze your materials and provide a quote. Once all the details are agreed upon, we get started.

First, we find the right translators for your material—experts in the subject matter and native speakers of the language they’re translating into. If you have ongoing work, we would assign a dedicated team of linguists who are familiar with your style and content.

We follow the steps outlined above, sending the text first to a translator, then an editor. If you wish to have your own reviewer check the translation, this happens next (more about this in question 6). Next, we take your reviewer’s comments, validate them, and implement any changes. Then, we proceed with any final steps. This could include typesetting, uploading web content to your CMS, or reviewing the functionality of your app to ensure the translations have been placed properly and function according to the developer’s specifications. A last round of quality check is performed, after which you receive your deliverables. Once the process is finished, we make sure your translation memory and glossary are up to date (see question 5 for more details).

Behind the scenes, the process involves a lot of checks and balances, all put in place to make sure the final translation turns out right.

3. What do I need to get started?

Most translation providers can work from any type of file format. We recommend providing editable files whenever possible (for example, providing the InDesign file with all the linked files).

When the content is complete, send the final version to your translation agency so they can provide a firm estimate of price and turnaround time. If you anticipate that there may be any updates to the content, communicate this up front. Unexpected, last-minute changes can impact the timeline and add to the cost.

It’s important to understand that the quality of a translation is directly correlated to the quality of the source material. Poorly written text can confuse even the best translators. Take the time to develop strong source content from the start, because if your source message is not clear, the translation will not be clear. For tips on writing for translation, read Writing for Global Audiences.

Provide any reference materials that will help your translator better understand the context so there will be no guesswork about your intended meaning.

4. Where are the translators located?

Eriksen works with translators who live and work in the countries for which they translate. Language is constantly evolving, and in-country linguists are more familiar with current terminology and will be better able to capture the local flavor of the language. They are aware of what is going on in their country from cultural, social, and political perspectives, which enables them to develop a culturally appropriate tone that will resonate with the people who live in that locale.

5. How does a translation agency keep my style and terminology consistent when translating a variety of materials?

By making decisions about your preferred style, tone, and terminology upfront, you can help ensure your brand and messaging are conveyed accurately and remain consistent across language and content.

Translation memory tools are used by translation providers to ensure quality and consistency in terminology, phrasing, and style. A translation memory (TM) is a database that stores text as it’s translated, so if you ever reuse the same combination of words, the software alerts the translator so they can use the same translation. Your translation memory will be leveraged against future projects to maintain consistent tone and phrasing. It is especially useful on large projects that require multiple translators because it ensures everyone will be using the same language.

A translation memory is not ideal for all types of work, but it’s great for content that is repetitive or technical. A translation memory can even save you money, as many translation agencies provide discounts on repeated segments.

A glossary (or terminology database) is a database that compiles your company’s key terminology in your source language and the approved translations for that terminology in your target language(s). This helps translators ensure that defined key terms are used correctly each time they appear. For example, “notebook computer” may be synonymous with “laptop,” but you should stick to one term. A glossary should also list any terms that are not to be translated. For example, many companies elect to keep the names of their products in the source language.

Read more about glossary development in Getting it Right the First Time: An Introduction to Terminology Management.

Style guides set rules for the way text and visual elements should be used throughout your materials. They include not only the tone and style of the language but also the visual elements that define your brand’s look and feel. This might include capitalization of the products or services you offer, rules for the proper usage of your company name, and whether or not to use serial commas. Style guides also address visual issues such as image placement, photography guidelines, how to use captions and credits, headline treatment, and guidelines for using alt text in images.

Your translation agency can work with you on the development and maintenance of these resources, which not only help improve quality and consistency across your materials, but ultimately save you time and money.

6. Can I give feedback on my translation?

Many clients request an internal review of a translation before it is approved for use. This client review provides a final check to make sure the translated material conveys your company’s unique voice. Using a qualified, knowledgeable reviewer will help you produce the best results. You want someone who is familiar with your company and brand as well as the content being translated. They also need to be proficient in reading and writing both the source and target languages and ideally be a native speaker of the target language.

For best results, your reviewer needs to understand the objectives of the review process. The client review is not intended to re-write the translated text or make subjective changes (which do not improve overall quality at this stage but may put the entire project behind schedule). The intent is to make sure your brand, company, and product/service offerings are communicated effectively.

To learn more about the process and see some guidelines for selecting reviewers, read Best Practices for Translation Review.

7. What is localization?

Localization is the process of adapting a product or content to a specific market or locale. By focusing on style and authenticity, localization aims to produce a website, app, marketing materials, or other content that looks and feels as though it was created for the target market.
Translation is one part of the process, but localization takes many additional factors into account:

  • Adapting graphics so they are appropriate for the target audience.
  • Modifying content, which might include changing words and phrases in order to effectively convey the intended meaning to the target audience.
  • Adapting design and layout so it properly displays the translated text and adheres to visual preferences of the target market.
  • Converting currencies and units of measure to local conventions.
  • Making sure dates, addresses, and phone numbers are properly formatted.
  • Addressing any applicable local regulations or legal requirements.

Do you have more questions about translation?

Tell us what you would like to know! Email your questions or comments to insights@eriksen.com, and we’ll address your topics in a future article!

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