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03/27/07

Permalink 10:29:35 am, Categories: For translation buyers, Spanish language & translation, 1147 words  

7 ways to have your message translated

1) Automatic (computer-generated) translation

Virtually every one of us has wondered at least once if computer-generated translation could be the ideal solution to our translation needs. After all, computers get more and more powerful and intelligent every day, so they must have figured this out by now, right? Well, actually, no. Language is intrinsically related to the human conscience and the human mind, with all its richness and complexity, nuances, double meanings, ambiguities... And computers have a long way to go before figuring all of this out. Of course, there is a certain measure of relativity in this. Granted, a computer will probably never be able to translate marketing or literature materials not even faintly close to adequately. However, for highly technical, very repetitive texts, the story would be somewhat different. But more on this later.

2) Translating in-house

Okay, so now that we established that computers will not address our translation needs adequately, we know that we need a real person to translate our materials. But wait a minute! My bilingual assistant is proficient in English and Spanish! She can translate for us, right?

Well, stop to think for a minute. Would you, for example, entrust your bilingual assistant with writing your company’s technical handbooks, even if he or she is proficient in English? Probably not. You would rather look for somebody who is a skilled technical writer. Similarly, unless your bilingual assistant happens to be a highly skilled linguist with specific training in translation, and a native speaker of your target language, you will do no favor to your company — or to your assistant for that matter — if you expect him or her to accomplish a task that he or she is not qualified to perform, such as professional translation.

3) The cheapest translation company we can find

I am starting to get upset with all of this. After all, translation should not be so complicated! Why, it is just taking English words and converting them into Spanish, French or German, nothing out of this world, right? We will just ask four different translation companies for translation quotes and go with the lowest offer. That should do just fine…

However interesting this option may sound, there is a high risk associated with it. Remember that your image, your message, and ultimately your bottom line are at stake here. A poor translation, even though it will cost less initially, can be the most expensive option. Think lost clients for lack of credibility, complaints or constant queries from your customers because they do not understand your target-language materials, or even worse, being sued by them because they got your message wrong and did something that caused them an injury or financial losses…

When you seriously look for quality, it is more likely that you will find it. If you are only looking for a low price, you are probably heading for disaster!

4) A top-notch freelance translator

In this case, we will do something else… We will just go without middle-men. Let’s do a search for a freelance translator, let’s choose the very best one, and we will save on commissions charged by translation companies.

Well, this can indeed be an interesting option if handled carefully and under some conditions. Freelance translators will often provide you with translation work only. Some of them will be able to provide desktop publishing services or translations in complex formats, others not. Depending on what you need (and if you only need translations into a couple of languages, which will be reasonably easy to handle by yourself), this can indeed be a good option, provided that the translator is really top-notch. High-quality translation providers pick their translators carefully, saving you a trial and error process that can require a great deal of time and resources. If you need reliable freelance translators for your projects, you will find a very good list of them here: www.squidoo.com/translationservices.

5) A reputed translation company
Hhhmmm… I think we should go with the safest option. Let’s just take one of the world’s leading translation companies. They will be able to address all of our needs, manage our multilingual projects effectively with little or no hassle for us, and they probably have highly qualified translators that they have selected carefully. It might be more expensive, but safer.

Great choice! And here I am to point you in the right direction: SDL International (www.sdl.com) is one of the most reputed translation companies out there, well known for their high standards and responsiveness. A very safe option indeed.

6) A freelance translation network
More and more professional translators, faced with the ever-decreasing rates offered by many translation agencies, are teaming up to provide their services without intermediaries, which allows them to offer very affordable rates to the end clients (saving on administrative costs incurred by translation agencies) while earning a fair compensation for themselves. Many of these translation networks are very reliable and offer high-quality services through cooperation among their members, who are professional and skilled translators. Very often they can offer a range of services that is comparable to what translation agencies offer. www.betranslated.com is one of these freelance translation services networks, and it offers support for the most common world languages. Other networks specialize on a language or a couple of languages, such as JB Translations Spanish translation network.

7) Controlled language + automatic translation + human post-editing
What if you have tons of highly technical and repetitive texts? Isn’t there a way to cut costs in this case? There indeed is, and this is where computers come in to the rescue. If you would care to invest the necessary resources to train your staff in learning how to write in controlled English, you will actually be able to obtain the savings you are looking for. Controlled language in general consists of a set of rules entailing simplification and standardization of grammar and vocabulary, which help computers understand and translate the resulting texts more adequately. A system powered by machine translation and enhanced by a translation memory created specifically for your materials is used, and the output is then post-edited by professional translators who are trained for this kind of task, thus automating a good deal of the translation process and saving costs. You will find more information about this on this translation article: www.uem.es/web/ott/ingles/controlados.html. Companies such as SDL International can help you throughout this process, from training your staff in controlled languages to creating your translation memory to post-editing the machine-translated output.

Whatever the option you end up choosing for your translations, hopefully this post will have been a useful resource to help you find the solution that fits your needs best, and especially to help you reach your target audience with a clear and polished message that conveys the right image about your company.

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