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Documents that we receive for translation are rarely optimized for the translation workflow. The goal of a translation preparation process is to add value by eliminating waste further down the process:

  1. Translation Process

magnifying glass over text with red text quality displayedThe translation process can be negatively affected by a poorly formatted document. Translators are compensated typically by word count or hourly if they do more creative work or spend additional time doing research.. Any time that is spent that does not add to the quality of the translation work is a waste:

Working around non-translatable text in the Translation Preparation process

Non-translatable text is either eliminated or clearly identified (locked) for translation when using CAT tools. Otherwise, it ends up in the word count. Non-translatable text such as coding or variable data cannot always be eliminated from the word count, but the value of document preparation is to make sure that the translator is not stopped in their tracks trying to figure out the context or meaning of non-translatable text or what kind of text will appear in a variable field. In these situations, the value of providing proper context in comments or separating out text from code is a value added process that can lead to a reduction in time frame, higher focus on quality output and lower costs.

We find quite a bit of variable text used in healthcare translations which is one of our main areas of expertise. A typical example you would find in member healthcare communications would be something like this to illustrate the point: “Your medication, <drug name>, may not be covered for the treatment of your <disease name>. Please contact us by <date> to find an alternative medication.”

Finding context

Translation CAT tools follow the path by which the text flows in a document. If the flow of text is not logically following the context of the text, the meaning is lost. We’ve seen headers being split with hard returns resulting in translations that are out of context and sentences broken and hard to follow when one is in the throes of writing.

Context is also derived from references, company terminology or any translated term already in use. Without properly vetting the terminology, the translator is left with either researching it or choosing a translation that may be inconsistent.

We’ve also worked with complex Excel files with references to other cells depending on certain variables. Grammatically this can become a nightmare if the translator is unaware of the potential ways a sentence is being compiled. There are several approaches to dealing with IF statements in text; either by eliminating the code and replacing it with something more logical or by providing context in the form of comments within the CAT tool. The availability of context around non-translatable text leaves more time for the translator to focus on the quality process. When we are preparing the files in project management, it is at that time that we fix broken sentences or add additional comments for reference and clarification.

  1. Formatting Process

Fixing text that doesn’t flow in a predictive manner is a waste in the formatting processes. That’s why in the document preparation process we look at how format affects the output after translation. We’ve previously written about specific document preparation tips for Word files and InDesign files. When we prepare documents for translation, we always look at two things:

  • how to get text out clean for translation, and
  • how to get it back into its original format after it has been translated.

Eliminating manual processes

Wimage showing text falling out of margin in translation preparationhen documents are designed to fit the source content perfectly, the translation is undoubtedly not going to fit everywhere. When text falls out of margins because the margins were not clearly defined, that can become a huge issue. Not only does translation expand but it also typically is not formatted by a native speaker of the language. So any issues that arise from text falling off a page is adding up to the responsibilities of the translator to catch during the Linguistic QA stage (final proof of typeset file if in design). The value of preparing the document for translation is that less time is spent on document flow and more on making the translation look good in a design meant for the source content.

More predictive output

Another part of the Translation Preparation Process is to ensure that any modifications required to prepare the text for translation do not end up costing more time when reverting to the original state. If you replace something that is unique with something that is more generically present in the document, you lose the ability for Word to ID that unique content when you want to revert back. It takes time to find the right find/replace actions to clean up a document but it’s well worth the costs as it creates a translation environment that is easy to work with during translation and a more predictable output when it is time to format. A well thought-out preparation process should consider all processes in the translation workflow.

Lean Principles

Lean Manufacturing has slowly made its way into service industry and at Language Solutions we try to apply these principles in our daily work. The translation workflow is often oversimplified by our own industry through the expectation that translation is a simple “word” business. However, when you look at the details of the translation workflow from start to end, there are a lot of process principles that are relevant to translation quality. We look forward to writing more about these principles and how it can lead to more effective and good quality translation work.