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Top Ten List for Making a Translator's Job Easier
Thread poster: Nicole Johnson
Nicole Johnson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 00:35
Italian to English
+ ...
Mar 26, 2008

I'm trying to give some pointers to a general public of business owners for their dealings with professional translators.

If you could create a list of ten things that would make your job as a professional translator easier, what would they be? I'd appreciate any contributions you could provide, even if you just have a few suggetions, and cannot come up with ten that's fine. Please add any suggestions or comments to the list.


For example, I'd start off with something like:

- Give the translator sufficient turnaround time in order to produce a quality translation.

- Make sure the source text that the translator is working from is well written and comprehensible.

- Be available to answer questions that the translator may have not only about the text, but also about your company, its products, history etc.



And so on.

I'm really interested to see what input you have on this subject. I'd like to create a sort of "manual" for people who don't deal with translators on a regular basis and perhaps aren't aware of what is involved in the business.

Thanks in advance.


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Margreet Logmans  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 00:35
English to Dutch
+ ...
Pictures - terminology Mar 26, 2008

If a translation is technical, of very practical, provide pictures!

Like photographs if it is a description of an object, building or construction, if it has to do with the functioning of machines or tools, etc.
Almost everything is easier to translate if you have a visual image in mind of what it is you're working on.
In tourism, pictures of the hotel/campsite and its surroundings would be helpful.

And another one: if you have specific terminology, either provide it along with the text to be translated, or make yourself available for the translator to build a glossary together. Otherwise, don't be surprised if you have to make a lot of changes to the translation afterwards....

Just two tips for now, I'm sure I can come up with some more, if you like.

Interesting topic, I'm curious about other people's contributions!


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Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 00:35
Member
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Client education 101: ATA's "Getting it right" booklet Mar 26, 2008

The American Translators Association has a very useful booklet, "Translation, getting it right – A guide to buying translations". You can download it at
http://www.atanet.org/docs/Getting_it_right.pdf
HTH
Attila


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Luisa Fiorini  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 00:35
English to Italian
+ ...
Two other tips Mar 26, 2008

Hi Nicole,

interesting topic

I would say:

- Provide the source text in editable format (word, excell...) whenever possible.

- Prompt answers to translator's questions regarding the translation, not after 10 days or 10 minutes before the delivery of the translation, or, regarding the payment terms, 10 days after the due date of the payment.


And here is the guide to the purchase of translation services based on Translation getting it right by Chris Durban

http://www.aiti.org/guida_servizi_traduzione.html




Ciao




[Modificato alle 2008-03-26 15:50]


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TonyTK
German to English
+ ...
... by Chris Durban ... Mar 26, 2008

... the excellent Ms. Durban being one of the people in the translation industry whose advice is always worth listening to.

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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:35
Italian to English
+ ...
Beware of in-house jargon Mar 26, 2008

Have a look through the file to check for any obscure abbreviations or terms which won't make sense to an outsider, and explain them. It'll save you and the translator time in the long run.

Pictures: couldn't agree more. Especially if you want a patent application translated. I've NEVER been given an illustration for a patent application, even though I have to translate their descriptions!

Scientific and specialist articles: always provide the references. The translator knows they don't need translating and won't include them in the word count (you can always specify this if you want to be on the safe side), but a lot of useful information can be gleaned from checking the references.

WRT the negotiation stage, bear in mind that if you don't confirm the translation within a few hours, the translator may well have accepted something else in the meantime - or simply no longer have time to translate your document before the originally proposed deadline. If it's Monday, the translator says "Friday?" and it's Thursday before you say "OK", you're probably not going to get your translation back on Friday.


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Luisa Fiorini  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 00:35
English to Italian
+ ...
Good point! Mar 26, 2008

Marie-Hélène Hayles wrote:

Have a look through the file to check for any obscure abbreviations or terms which won't make sense to an outsider, and explain them. It'll save you and the translator time in the long run.

WRT the negotiation stage, bear in mind that if you don't confirm the translation within a few hours, the translator may well have accepted something else in the meantime - or simply no longer have time to translate your document before the originally proposed deadline. If it's Monday, the translator says "Friday?" and it's Thursday before you say "OK", you're probably not going to get your translation back on Friday.



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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 18:35
English to French
+ ...
A few Mar 26, 2008

There are many more, of course, and the ATA guide is quite complete, although not everything is covered. Here are my favorites:

- If possible, don't send a PDF file to the translator, but send the file from which the PDF was created.

- If your company consistently uses certain terms (if, for example, you prefer using the word client rather than customer), make a list of these and send them to the translator.

- Let the translator know how the translation will be used, who the readers will be and what purpose the translated text will serve.

- If the document is a software manual, provide screen captures for all user interface elements even if there are not many screen captures in the manual. If your interface has already been translated into the target language, providing a list of UI translations (in an Excel worksheet, perhaps) is even better.

- Make sure the formatting of your document is easy to work with. Translators only translate and they are not desktop publishers. Although translators do their best to preserve the formatting of your document, things can still shift if your layout was complicated or not properly done. If something shifts in the text during translation, you could get some nasty surprises.

Edit: Here are a few links to help you with this.

Crossing Borders –– Tips For Preparing Your Writing For Subsequent Translation by George P. Rimalower - http://www.stc.org/confproceed/2000/PDFs/00019.PDF

Nine Things Your Translators Wish You Knew by Rachel A. Davis - http://www.stc.org/intercom/PDFs/2006/20069-10_8-9.pdf

10 Things To Remember When Translating Documents by Jackie Smith - http://www.stcsig.org/itc/transkit/10things.pdf

Technical Translation: Craft, Not Commodity by Louis M. Cardillo - http://www.stc.org/intercom/PDFs/2004/200405_12-13.pdf

Is Your Documentation Translation-Ready? by Whitney Beth Potsus and Kaarina Kvaavik - http://www.stc.org/intercom/PDFs/2001/200105_12-17.pdf

Of course, there are lots more available, but these should give you plenty of inspiration. The last one, in particular, is worth a good read.

[Edited at 2008-03-26 16:06]


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:35
Italian to English
+ ...
Viktoria's just reminded me of another one Mar 26, 2008

Please, please don't use unmodifiable graphs/charts in your file - they're a nightmare. Either make them modifiable or also provide a separate file with a table of terms to be translated.

And avoid creating figures with lines and arrows added as separate images too, as they are a nightmare to re-format. I had some last week where it took me over an hour to try to sort out the formatting on the translated file, and I still managed to "lose" two little logo gifs (no idea where they went, I hadn't deleted them but they just weren't there any more!)

[Edited at 2008-03-26 16:51]


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 18:35
English to French
+ ...
Forgot a few Mar 26, 2008

Addition to my last post:

- If your document uses fonts that are not standard (not likely to be installed in the translator's computer), provide the font files. This will save both you and the translator a lot of formatting headaches, saving you both time and money.

- Do not modify any part of the source document once translation has started. If you really need to make changes, make up a separate document containing the old text blocks along with the new ones and treat this document as a separate translation project. It is difficult and time-consuming for a translator to modify the source text once it has been translated, and translators charge extra for such inconveniences. This is why, once again, it is of the utmost importance to make sure your text is perfectly ready for translation (that is, ready for publishing in the source language) before you hand it off for translation.

[Edited at 2008-03-26 16:24]


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:35
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Yes - plan ahead Mar 26, 2008

Nicole Johnson wrote:

- Give the translator sufficient turnaround time in order to produce a quality translation.

-


From the client's perspective, you need to say, "Please plan ahead. If you are having a meeting in a month, for which you need a translation, please send the document to the translator at the same time as you send out notification of the meeting."

Most businesses have a rule that notification of the meeting has to be given some weeks ahead (or so I have read, in many translations that I have done). They simply have to apply the same rule to the translation.


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 01:35
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Supply VAT-number Mar 27, 2008

With new clients this is always an issue. Every outsourcer should know by now, that the VAT-number is needed at least when the invoice is filled in.

One point to the wish list:

Do not spoil your documents by ripping them into TMs. When updating previous translations send the translation with the changes in the source language. Otherwise the work of previous translaters and proofreaders is lost, because the CAT-tool reads only chunks of text and cannot take care of context-issues. For the segment "Notice:" I can think of at least four Finnish translations depending on the text that comes after it. CAT-tools remember only the last occurence.


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Fiona Gonçalves  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 23:35
Member
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Make sure it's actually legible. Mar 27, 2008

If you're sending a handwritten document or a scanned copy of a faxed original it can be very difficult for the translator even to decipher what's actually written on it, let alone translate it, so make sure it's properly legible. If you have difficulty reading it, your translator will too. I've translated a number of official documents from pre-computer days and they're a nightmare.

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xxxNMR
France
Local time: 00:35
French to Dutch
+ ...
Some more Mar 31, 2008

- If your translator doesn't confirm reception of your Very Important E-mail, call him by phone.
- Don't think your translator is already Vista-equipped. Most translators use XP. Prepare your documents in formats that can be read by XP (Word 2003, tree characters extensions, etc.)
- Please don't make your files too big. Word files with lots of text boxes are a nightmare.
- If your file has to be proofread in PDF, please use the lowest possible resolution*.
- Don't copy the text to be translated into an e-mail, especially if there are figures. E-mails with figures vanish into spam boxes. And if they arrive, they are often truncated, the figures being replaced by x. Some translators don't use Outlook but other e-mail programs which handle figures differently.
- If you prepare small segments in an Exel file, don't sort this file but leave everything in logical order.
- If you have a website to be translated, please give the references of the existing website(s).
- Tell the printing house not to cut words at the end of the lines, because each language is different. Tell them too that the translator and the end client are not necessarily equipped with the latest high-speed hard- and software (see above).
- For agencies: try to sell the work your translators are able to do, instead of looking in the last minute for a sheep with five legs.
- Remember that the standard language for Belgium and the Netherlands is called Dutch, not Deutsch or Flemish (Deutsch is used in German speaking countries and Flemish in Belgium only).

------------------

* some weeks ago I retrieved 500 Mb PDF files by YouSendIt (several hours), had to make some corrections in them (10 minutes) and to send them back in the same way to the client who had to send them back to the end client. And I had only one language out of five!

Great subject.


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MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 01:35
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
some additional things Apr 4, 2008

1) Do not "overinstruct" - the client shall give very exact, brief and clear instructions on what the translator is supposed to do. I had several cases when there was a need to do an urgent 0.5 page translation (that takes ~ 30 minutes) that was followed by a 3 page instruction on HOW to do it and had to spend more time reading and TRYING to understand the instruction, and, fairly, that instruction was just a formality and almost irrelevant (it was not a case when there is a very specific translation to be done on a very specific instruction). And, well, had to read that instruction some 3 times to manage to understand what the hell they want from me. And they simply wanted that 0.5 page to be done (translated as usual).

2) "Measure a dozen of times, cut once" (= prepare the source with a dozen of revisions, and say "go ahead" to the translator only once). I mean the client shall prepare a good source and when it is FINAL only, shall give the "go" command for translation. What happens quite often - here is the text, please go ahead. When you are in the middle of the work, the client decides that some places in the source "do not sound well" and then they start "updating" that. OK, updated once. Then, after some time, updated again. Then updated again and so on. I had a 60 page translation that was split into numerous small files with very long file names (very hard to remember) where the client used to change and update the source at least 3-4 times per day during the time of the whole period of work (I have counted some 11 updates to the "initial files" which I started to translate). At the end it was already almost impossible to figure out what was updated, where, which were the final files - actually a TOTAL confusion + a lot of stress.

3) "Avoid small urgent requests" - sometimes a very small, but an urgent "favour" is needed - to add one or two translation sentences to some "extra source" text, to change/replace a couple of words. And it is usually sent like "Here are extra 3 sentences to the job you are doing, can you make it asap, in some 15 minutes?". OK, no problem here, but people shall realize that there can be a dozen of such request or other things from a dozen of different clients at the same time, let alone this is very distracting. To translate those couple of sentences is a matter of minutes, but sometimes it actually takes the whole day till the client receives those 3 sentences. as there is a LOT of other work going around.

4) "Clear and kept time schedules" - it is not only the translator who shall keep his/her promises on schedules - quite often it happens that a job that is supposed to come on Monday 10.00 a.m. to be completed by Wednesday EOB (you make a preliminary agreement that you will do) arrives on Tuesday 3 p.m. and is needed for SAME Wednesday EOB. Well, there can be many understandable reasons for that (we are all human beings), but translators cannot wait - we are free-lancers and time is money for us. And, in most cases, other job proposals start popping out as a rule. And often the client feels somewhat unhappy if you tell, "Sorry, I have taken another job on Monday late noon as we have agreed that the source files come from you on Monday morning"...


[Edited at 2008-04-04 20:31]


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