Changing translation vendors can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Just like switching mechanics or internet service providers, it can involve some up-front logistical investment but is well worth it if it ultimately leads to a better partnership resulting in better outcomes. If you’ve been dealing with pain points in your translation process or have gotten complaints about your translated materials, keep reading to see if working with a more collaborative language service provider (LSP) might be the solution.
Address your audience
A strong knowledge of the intended audience is foundational to producing an optimal translation. Both translation customers and vendors can contribute to this knowledge. Do you know where most of your Spanish-speaking employees are from? Or whether your Vietnamese patients are primarily older or younger than 50? These insights help determine which language variant will be best understood or accepted in translation. We make sure that our translation teams have a profound understanding of not only the target language but also the associated culture. This means they know not only words and grammar, but also attitudes and associations that may come into play when engaging with a certain material. If your current LSP isn’t asking you to specify your translation requests for Chinese (Simplified or Traditional?), French (Canadian or European?), or Portuguese (Brazilian or European?) (among other questions), you may want to look into changing translation vendors.
Talk about terms
Another element of good quality translation is using proper and consistent terminology. This is also best achieved when clients and vendors work together. Working with translators who are experts in the subject matter they are translating about is one way to ensure that they will use correct and accepted terminology. In certain fields, however, there may be several accepted terms that are used. For example, we translate HR communications for various companies, each of which has a different preferred term for “employees.” Some companies prefer to say “colleagues,” while others use “partners” or “associates.” If you are changing translation vendors or are working with a dedicated LSP for the first time (rather than having a bilingual employee translate your documents), it’s critical to provide your (new) LSP with the translated terms that are already in use. One reference point for this is a 401(k) “match” or “matching contribution.” If you’ve already provided translations about this, it would be preferable to continue using the same translation for “match” so that there’s no doubt about which disbursements to which you are referring. The same goes for translations of terms such as Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and vesting.
Keep it consistent
A similar case is translating materials that reference or supplement employee resources such as handbooks or online systems. Just like how “log in” and “sign in” mean the same thing in the context of a digital portal, there can be several ways to translate phrases like “sign up,” “sign in,” and “learn more.” So, when your new document copy includes these types of references, make sure you have screenshots, portal access, or some other way for your LSP to ensure that they’re using translations that are already available. It might not seem like too much to ask for end users to make the leap between instructions that say to click on “Next” when the button actually says “Continue,” but it can be frustrating to look for something that isn’t actually there. A lack of continuity can also make a user wonder if they are in the right place. If the elements being referenced have never been translated, it’s important to know that as well. In that situation, we always include the source term alongside a translation, usually in parentheses afterwards. That way users know exactly what they’re looking for (a button, a document saved in a shared drive, an email attachment, etc.) and know what to expect once they find it. And if the translations for these elements are publicly accessible (i.e., on your corporate website), you should feel confident that your LSP is finding and using those as part of their standard procedure.
Mark the meaning
If you regularly use organization-specific acronyms or shorthand, part of changing translation vendors should involve sharing the longform versions of these. Acronyms like “R&D” and “DBA” are generally understood and shouldn’t require further explanation when their context is sufficient to confirm their meaning. If your company, however, refers to your customer service representatives as CSRs, you will need to make sure your translation team is aware of that to avoid misunderstandings. Similarly, if you use shorthand (like using “IDiv” for International Division) or name an internal process, document, or system using an everyday word that hasn’t been copyrighted (calling your training protocol “Pathway,” for instance), those would also need to be communicated to the translator. Once you’ve communicated these definitions or clarifications once, you should be all set. Our standard procedures include using terminology management technology that keeps track of these entries as well as working with regular translation teams whenever possible. This ensures the team’s familiarity with the client’s objectives, preferences, and style.
If you’ve been considering changing translation vendors but have put it off because you were dreading a big hassle or weren’t sure it would be worth it, we hope this overview has helped you feel confident and prepared to make a beneficial switch. If you think we may be the collaborative partner you’re looking for, give us a call or send us a message and we’d be happy to see if we’re a good fit!