Welcome to Translation Review Week, where we plan to spend each day (except for Wacky Word Wednesday, of course!) dissecting and analyzing review practices in the localization industry, paying special attention to why translation review makes people want to cross their eyes and scream, and what we as a community—both translation buyers and providers alike—can do to fix it.
To begin, it’s important to note that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions when it comes to translation QA. There are, however, a good many pitfalls that limit the success of the review process.
To limit your exposure to these pitfalls, it’s important for translation buyers to first identify why you’re performing reviews and, based on that information, determine what types of reviews you want, and then how and by whom they should be performed. In order to clearly understand the focus of in-house and/or third-party translation review, however, it’s necessary to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
First, you need to clarify why you’re translating.
It may sound elementary, but in order to fix a problem, sometimes it’s best to re-evaluate the basics. Obviously, translation buyers invest in localization services in order to secure their piece of the global market pie. When we say, “You need clarify why you’re translating,” what we mean is that you need to be aware of the types of documents you’re translating and what their respective purposes are in your target market(s).
This list is by no means exhaustive, but the following are some of the types of documents we often come across, each with its own different purpose:
- Marketing collateral (including ads, web content, etc.) – Used, obviously, to make your product or service look sexy and make consumers believe that they can’t live without it
- Technical IFUs or user docs (for machines, medical devices, etc.) – Used to mitigate the risk of injury-related adverse events and product recalls by making sure that consumers are using your products properly
- Package inserts (for pharmaceuticals) – Used for regulatory compliance in target markets and also to mitigate various adverse events that may arise from misuse
- Legal documentation – Used to ensure your products, services, company documents and all related agreements/contracts are compliant with local laws
- Online Help (for software and electronic devices, etc.) – Used to optimize the usability of your product and to help users better navigate its functionality without expending human resources
This may be an oversimplification of product documents and their related uses, but the point is that, because the purpose of all documentation is different, the way in which you translate and review them should also be different.
Based on this information, identify the purpose of your review process.
When asked why localized documents need to undergo a review process, most people will state one or more of the following reasons:
- To ensure the quality of translation
- To mitigate risk
- To maximize company revenue abroad
- To ensure product usability
- To properly establish brand image
These are all vastly different goals—and they’re only a small sampling of the many reasons why companies justify money spent on translation review. Because the reasons behind in-house or independent review differ so much between document types, it’s vital that you identify why you’re reviewing each set of documents.
Just as you wouldn’t want an engineer within a 10-foot radius of your marketing documents, you also don’t want a would-be poet stinking up your package inserts with purple prose. Identifying the core purpose of each type of document before localization enables you to more clearly delineate who should be reviewing it and what he or she should look for.
It’s easy to say “I want a perfect representation of every aspect of this document in the target language.” However, given the time and budget constraints to which all translation buyers are subject, that’s not always a viable end-goal. There needs to be a focus.
If the purpose of the document is to ensure compliance with local laws, then your review process for that specific type of document needs to focus more on consistent use of terminology and, well, compliance with local laws. If it’s a marketing document, then your review process needs to focus on the accurate cultural and linguistic transcreation of your company’s messaging and branding in the target market. If it’s an Online Help menu, well… you need to focus on it actually making sense.
For the purposes of this blog entry, we won’t go into detail about who should perform reviews and what guidelines should be set—that’s for later this week. For right now, what’s important is that you understand the overall purpose of each document in order to better understand how its translated counterparts should be reviewed. Which leads us to the next step….
Tell your LSP to shut up and listen.
Yes, that includes us. You are welcome to send us an e-mail or call us with a resounding shutup, because this step is important. Localization is a niche market. As such, there’s only so much a language vendor can do to set itself apart from the other 23,000-odd companies that are competing for your business.
One of the ways in which most language service providers try stand out from the crowd is by flaunting their mad QA processes, certifications, quality awards, and overall translation skillz. (Yes, I said “mad skillz”—and yes, it’s included in our corporate glossary. So there.) Of course it’s necessary to be ISO-certified, to employ a corporate terminologist, and of course it’s important to have rock-solid, well-defined linguistic QA processes. In fact, if a potential language service provider doesn’t have these, then we would advise you to run and don’t look back.
On that same note, if your localization provider is shoving their own processes down your throat without first asking, What kind of in-house QA practices do you have? What is the end-goal of your linguistic QA process, and how can we complement it with our own?, then it’s advisable that you tighten those laces regardless and make for the hills.
And this is why: Nobody knows your business as well as you do. Granted, the end-goal of a symbiotic relationship with your localization vendor is to find someone whom you can trust and who, through years of cooperation, can help you lower costs and expedite delivery times as a result of their intimate familiarity with your company and its product lines. This takes time, a proactive dedication to integrate localization into your entire product development cycle, and it also takes a whole heck of a lot of communication between you and your preferred LSP.
In the meantime, the first step toward reaching a state of symbiosis with your language service provider is, again, to tell them to shut up about their own processes, and then explain to them what you know about your business, including its translation and, by extension, review-related needs.
After they completely understand what you’re looking for, if your LSP has some advice or suggestions to offer based on their own experience and linguistic expertise—that’s fine. They can probably help you better optimize your content and processes for future localization. But make sure that your voice is heard first—and that your specific needs will be met. Then, and only then, should your language service provider open up their multilingual yapper.
This is the first step toward achieving Review Nirvana.
Stop on by tomorrow for the second step in Translation Review Week, where we’ll discuss Setting Guidelines for Translation Review.
Are you a translator, LSP, or translation buyer?
Great! Thanks for reading. At CSOFT, we’re always interested in hearing what our peers have to say. Translation Review Week is all about improving the review process for all parties involved in localization. So if you have any thoughts, suggestions, or disagreements about what you just read, please feel free to leave a comment.
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