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Technical Document Translation: 5 Top Ways to Improve Quality

You may be under pressure to complete technical document translation projects quickly and cheaply, but as a result, the quality may end up suffering. It just takes time and money to produce high-quality technical translations. If you’re entering new global markets or trying to maintain market share in your existing markets, translation quality can’t suffer or you might risk losing customers. Here are five ways you can improve the quality of your technical translations.

1. Write with Localization in Mind

If you approach a content development project knowing that the content will be translated, you can avoid costly or time-consuming issues during the localization process. There are many things you can do, such as developing writing standards, using consistent terminology, writing as clear and concisely as possible and standardizing the writing software (e.g., Microsoft Word, Adobe FrameMaker, Adobe InDesign, etc.). Your technical translation company can advise you on things that will make the translation process easier, such as avoiding images with embedded text and concatenations.

Spending time developing and reviewing the English content before you send content to translation will result in higher-quality translations. Every time you fix an error or clear up confusing content in the English content, it will save the translators time in every language, which will improve the time to market and reduce your costs. So establish best writing practices (using a controlled language like Simplified Technical English can help) with your team, and most importantly, follow them!

2. Choose the Right Translators

Just as it’s important to have experienced, trained writers, it’s also important to have the same requirements for your translators. The translators should be native speakers, preferably located in the target countries, and ideally have experience translating content in your industry, especially if you’re in a specialized field. High-quality translations will not be cheap but it’s critical to have the right translations of your content. This blog post explains how translation costs are calculated.

When you initially start working with a technical translation company, it’s a good idea to train the team on your business and products or services. The more you can do up-front, the better for everyone. The quality will be higher and it will be less time-consuming once the project starts and the pressure is on. The translators are also an integral part of developing a glossary, which I’ll explain in the next section.

3. Create a Glossary of Terms

A glossary is a group of terms that are commonly used throughout content, such as terms related to an industry, a product, a service or business. Establishing a list of terms early on and working with your translation company to translate the terms increases consistency and saves time and money. It’s important to establish English terminology before a project begins so that the translators use the correct variation of the words. The terms will then be added to a translation memory (see the next section) to use during the project. As a translator works on a project, the approved terms are already pre-populated as they appear in the content.

4. Use a Translation Memory to Increase Consistency

A translation memory (TM) is a database of all the English and translated content. The TM keeps track of all the content from project to project. The glossary of terms is housed in the TM and all the translated content is pre-populated for a project. As you add more content, the library of translated content will continue to grow, which should ultimately decrease your translation cost and save the translators time. The TM helps with consistency as any segment which was translated and approved in the past doesn’t have to be translated again, even if there’s a new translator. The TM and glossary together manage the consistency and both of these tools are essential to the translation process.

5. Include QA and Proofreading Cycles

QA and proofreading cycles are very important in the translation process. After the translators complete their work, QA experts need to make sure it passes QA tests and then the in-country reviewers need to validate the translation. During the QA step, the testers review the content in context and fix any errors. Then the content goes to the in-country reviewers for another check. Just like with the English content, you must have different sets of eyes reviewing the translated content. The quality of the translation will increase by going through this step.

Conclusion

If you follow the tips in this blog post, you should be able to improve your translation quality. If you’re not sure how your translations are stacking up, we offer a translation quality assessment service that objectively looks at your content. Contact the nearest office to learn how our assessment can help you determine the actual quality of the translations.

Remember that if you go for cheap or quick translations, the quality will probably not be high. Quality isn’t cheap but it’s worth it.

For additional tips and best practices, I also invite you to join our LinkedIn Group Measuring Localization Quality. It’s a great way to connect with other professionals who are interested in the topic. I look forward to “seeing” you there.

Lee Stein

At Net-Translators I've had a unique opportunity to experience the world of localization from different points of view! During my first years at Net-Translators, I was the HR and Vendor Manager. I had the chance to experience the localization world from different people's perspective: translators, project managers, localization engineers, QA testers and more... Each one and his own motivations, challenges and expertise. It was very fascinating! As the VP of Operations I face new challenges together with our clients. Being committed to fulfill our clients' requirements, goals and expectations while constantly improving our service has made me even more confident that it's all about the people: teamwork, communication, sharing information and aiming for one common goal. In this blog I'll share with you interesting information, thoughts and insights. You are most welcome to comment and share. Looking forward to meeting you here! Lee.

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