The translation market is associated with a number of myths and prejudices which often make it difficult to achieve the desired results for both the client and the translator or translation company. Now let us take a look at the most common ones; at the end, you will see that translating a text is not as easy as it seems, and that it really is best to entrust your project to the experts.
1. “Translations are very expensive!”
There are various factors that can affect a quote: the word count, text formatting, how technically specific it is, the quality of the original writing, the file format, the deadline, the languages in question, among others. Because of all these variables, getting an accurate quote and consequently the allocation of the appropriate resources needed to achieve a high-quality end product will objectively depend on the availability of the original materials and the highest number of references possible.
Using a professional translation service may seem too expensive, but these professionals work according to current regulations for the provision of language services and use state-of-the-art methods and electronic tools to achieve the best possible result. Training, experience, upgrading of technological materials and sometimes the difficulty of finding a specific translator (imagine how many native Swedish translators know the Portuguese language and the textile industry) are all conditions that contribute to price fluctuations. Even so, it should be noted that as you award new projects it becomes possible to obtain more competitive prices. So as the commercial relationship continues over time, like in any activity you can create conditions for negotiating fees; also, the more you commit to helping translators with their task by making available the information they need about your company, the more likely you are to get some sort of discount.
Let us look at two different scenarios when asking for a quote:
Scenario to avoid:
– I have a document of around 1500 words to translate from English into Portuguese and Spanish. How much will it cost and when can you deliver it?
– I am attaching a document to be translated for you to analyse. The translation must be from English into Portuguese and Spanish (the Iberian market). We work in the automotive industry and this document is connected with a promotion for changing tires, which will take place in the third quarter. The target audience will be our current customers and we would like to encourage new customers to visit us. The deadline we would prefer is by the end of day X. If you need additional information, please call us on 9XX XXX XXX. The contact person is Y. We also include a document of the latest campaign we carried out, for your reference.
The more detailed the explanation of your project, the higher will be the quality of the final text you will receive.
2. “Communication? Marketing? You just need to know how to translate.”
Rather than merely substituting words, translation is a method of transposing ideas between different languages and cultures. It is a technical service that requires more than linguistic knowledge – it combines communication and marketing with experience in target markets. You don’t think so Then let’s look at the following scenarios:
• You have created a new product/service, invested heavily in research, design, execution and introducing it into the market, and now you would like to internationalize it. After all that investment, you decide that you will save on translation costs. Now, we having nothing against “saving”; we are totally in favour of it! However, imagine the success your product had in your own country. Would it have been possible to achieve without investing in the appropriate resources to disseminate it? How do you think your product/service will be received in the foreign markets where you want to internationalize it? Have you studied your international clients? Just between you and me, how far do they trust this translation and the company responsible for it?
Were they convinced they would start a commercial relationship with the company responsible for this product? Of course not! Unfortunately, failing to invest in translation, looking for machine translation or for “someone you know who understands the language” is a big step towards making this your image and your position in the market where you want to compete. Although this is an extreme example of machine translation, we are often faced with translations where the sentences are grammatically well-constructed but which contain crucial mistakes in the use of the correct terminology, or even cultural errors that can put a company on a potential consumer’s “blacklist”.
Let’s look at another scenario:
• Your hostel’s website is well-designed and intuitive, with carefully-worded content in Portuguese. However, you decided to use machine translation from a well-known search engine for the content in other languages. On the other hand, one of your competitors invested in the translation of all content and their website’s presentation is more polished and professional. The client’s perspective is: two websites, two companies. One of them communicates perfectly in her language and clearly provides her with all the information she needs on her first visit to the website. The other has machine translation, not all the information is clear, and it will force her to at least write a few e-mails to ask questions before booking. Also, it isn’t clear whether they can communicate in foreign languages without some level of difficulty. Tell us, where would you prefer to spend the night?
As an ex-member of the government quipped some years ago “Just do the math.” Are we still talking about an expense, or is it an investment?”
3. “My cousin who lives in Britain will translate this for me!”
One of the myths about translation is still the idea that anyone who speaks a language can be a translator. To best demystify this issue, let’s imagine the following scenario:
• You are a native Portuguese speaker with excellent command of the language. You write regularly and have no difficulty at all making yourself understood; so here’s challenge for you: I want you to write a three-page article on wastewater drainage. Remember to use the appropriate terminology! Naturally, you would not write on a topic you are not cognizant with because you realise you do not have the appropriate knowledge to do so, whether or not you are fluent in the language. In the same way, a professional translator specialises in certain fields and works accordingly. A good translator in the automotive field may not be the best one to translate marketing content, and vice-versa. If even at a professional level we always need to look for certain resources and these professionals need to keep investing in their training and keep up to date with the markets they work with, do you still think that your friend who lived in France for four years is the solution you are looking for Will she know exactly how the industry refers to a “retention valve” or a “septic tank”?
4. “I just need to have it translated into English, because everybody speaks English these days.”
There are several methods of improving the quality of your multilingual documentation. However, each situation requires different kinds of care and attention and ultimately it is the client who will decide the particular features of the communication he wants to make. Even so, there are solutions to doing so in a guided manner. Hiring a specialised translation company also means getting linguistic support and help with internationalization. If you are not sure about which details you should highlight, contact your language service provider. Explain to her what you are aiming to achieve and ask her for information about the sort of content you should include in your documentation and what you should pay particular attention to, including cultural issues, logos, slogans and colours, instances of wordplay that would not be well-received in a certain region, as well as simple matters like including the prices for the target country rather than expecting the translator to convert amounts from your country, which may be quite different from those of the target market. The better prepared and more detailed the project is, the greater the probability that you will receive a final document that is ready for publishing or printing. You will at the same time involve your translation partner in the planning, which will allow her to focus on the project and help you achieve a translation that is closer to what you are hoping for. Here is a short list of items you could prepare beforehand:
• Would you like to have your documentation translated into Spanish? What is the target country/region? This information will help you find the most appropriate translator. Remember that the language is spoken in different continents, and that the centuries have contributed to the creation of some differences.
• Did you create a newsletter that will be translated for external markets? Provide the original final document. Sometimes the way the text is arranged changes the way we interpret it. It may help the translator to understand the message correctly and perhaps even to detect signs, colours or layouts that might cause discomfort in the target country.
• Did you develop some software you want to sell abroad? Remember that some languages are so different from each other that a sentence in English could be twice as long as in Portuguese. Find out these details from your language service provider and prepare yourself appropriately so that you won’t need to cut out information from a translated version because of formatting problems. Whether it is a website or an app, sometimes there are limits to the number of characters you can include in your content. At the programming stage, it is important to know which languages the product has to be prepared for and the specifics it will have to take into account
• Are you a developer of software, apps, APIs? Don’t paste the text from the strings onto an Excel spreadsheet and send it to be translated. The translator does not know your product and she will not be able to infer the context of your strings. If you are worried in case the translator changes your programming, all the more reason to hire a trustworthy translation company. There are many professionals who translate different software content every day and are perfectly qualified to recognize which content should be translated and which should be left as it is. The strings can actually be very helpful to interpret ambiguous sentences that may refer to a button or simply to a description in a menu. If possible, include screenshots and descriptions of the functionalities. This may seem a long-winded process, but it ensures that the translator will interpret your product correctly. There are also other translation possibilities using localization software, so look for expert help.
• Does your document contain acronyms or abbreviations that the translator may not know? Include the name of each of these items. This will help the translator to find the best equivalent and to work faster.
• Do you prefer certain terms rather than others? Mention them to the translation company you work with. They will be able to create a glossary that will be used in your translations, thus ensuring that your message is always consistent. It is not enough to inform the translator at the end of the project that your company prefers “glass cleaner” to “windscreen cleaner”. These sorts of corrections at the end of the project may result in stalemate because neither option can be seen as a translation error but rather as a terminological preference for which the translator may not feel inclined to be held responsible since she was not informed. Another way to achieve good results is, as mentioned above, to provide reference material that already includes some terminology preferences. This way, the translator will know which terms to select when there are various options.
I suppose that by now you regret that project you did not entrust to expert native translators with valuable cultural and technical know-how who could have contributed their experience to developing your business and helping you project a favourable, trustworthy image.