The 411 on Preparing Content for Document Translation
Barb Sichel | June 6, 2018
Good document translation is not always achieved by simply handing over your files to a document translator. Fully preparing your content for translation requires some key steps. Just as you prepare for a new product launch or advertising campaign, you should also prepare for your document translation project.
No matter your source or target languages, preparing for professional document translation may involve making some fundamental changes to your source documents as well as preparing organizationally. This is sometimes called writing for translation.
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Prepare Your Content for Document Translation
When getting your material ready for professional document translation, make sure your original documents are professionally written and edited in their original language.
For instance, if your source language is English, writing for translation means all documents should be in simple English with short, clear sentences. Limit dependent clauses. Using only one thought per sentence helps translators determine your meaning and aids in building your translation memory. Writing for translation is also sometimes called simplifying the text.
Eliminate cultural references and idiomatic expressions that may not translate well across cultures. Some symbols and symbolic language can be utterly confusing outside the English language and related cultures. Eliminate symbols that do not cross cultural barriers well.
Here are some other important document preparation tips:
Use pictures and fewer words.
Diagrams and pictures are often easier and more intuitive for users to understand than lengthy text. Just be sure the images you choose are easily identified in your target market. Also, because document translation costs are often based on word count, you can save money by replacing wordy text with simple diagrams and illustrations.
Don’t embed text within graphics.
For ease in the document translation process, always ensure that all text is “live,” so your content can easily be captured for translation. Text embedded in images must be manually extracted for translation, costing precious time.
Prepare for text expansion.
It surprises many to learn that the same message in most other languages is 20 percent longer than English. Therefore, when writing for translation from English, you must account for text expansion when designing or creating your original print layout, including artwork, graphics, or charts. Also consider that your documents may need to be resized (U.S. letter sizes are normally converted to A4 for other global markets).
Link all graphics.
Always try to link graphics in a document instead of embedding them. This simplifies replacement in localized versions and future document updates. Linking graphics also reduces file size, which works well for file transfers.
Provide editable source files.
Providing editable source files is a critical part of preparing your material for document translation. Use common file formats for text and images whenever possible. Most translators do not work in engineering or complex image creation applications, so sending files in these formats will require time-consuming workarounds and changes that will slow the overall translation process.
Prepare Administratively for Your Professional Document Translation Project
Just as it is important to prepare your actual documents for translation, it is crucial to prepare for the translation project itself. Although the following steps do not involve the documents themselves, they can directly impact the quality of your content translations.
Provide instructions to your translation provider that include the scope of the project, reference materials, and the purpose of the final documents desired. Specify any information needed to generate deliverables that meet your intended purpose including output format and style guides.
Organize your file submissions.
Be sure your file submissions consist of all relevant files for document translation in working condition with no extra or unused files. Be sure to include linked graphics and fonts. Utilizing an organized folder structure goes a long way in eliminating confusion and lost source documents.
Build a glossary
Writing for translation should include creating a corporate glossary and style guide that are reviewed and approved by all internal parties. Providing a glossary or reference guide of technical terms will ensure that your internal team is all on the same page and help keep translations accurate. Clear definitions of acronyms and key terms, especially industry-related terms, give the translator additional clarity regarding your intended meaning.
Taking these steps can help ensure your content is able to be seamlessly translated from one language to another with its original meaning intact.