Localization Tips / Translation

Translation Review Week: Part Three – Getting People on Board

Zachary OverlineWelcome back to part three of Translation Review Week! So far we’ve talked about knowing what you want and getting what you want—two integral steps in ensuring the success of your translation review process.

From these discussions, we’ve gleaned that working with your language service provider to set specific parameters for reviewers based on your own understanding of your organization’s documents and their respective functions is the best way to facilitate an efficacious, stress-free translation review cycle. In addition, we’ve established that respecting the review process as an imperative quality assurance measure (by giving your reviewers sufficient time to work and getting them involved in a project early on) will also help to abate review-induced grey hair syndrome.

So we’ve talked about what’s and we’ve talked about how’s. Today’s topic is whom you should employ to perform translation review—getting the right people on board. We call it “The Who” of Translation Review.

The Who, original line up, performing in Chicago. Left to right: Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle, Keith Moon, Pete Townshend. Picture by Jim Summaria.
(Thanks to Jim Summaria and Wikimedia Commons for this rad picture of the Who.)

Before we outline a selection of considerations for finding the right reviewers, it’s necessary to take a step back and address the translation process as a whole. Because localized documents are processed by no small number of functional groups before final delivery, any linguistic mistakes or inconsistencies tend to get passed downstream (and become exponentially more serious) as a project moves forward. As a result, some problems that you might otherwise attribute to a poorly executed review process are actually problems with translation or, as is often the case, a direct result of bad source content.

Although source content creation is germane to the issue at hand, we won’t focus on it too much today, because entire volumes can be written about the central role that source content plays in the overall quality (and cost!) of a localization project. Suffice it to say that bad source content does not beget good translations, and bad translations (rightfully) make reviewers want to scream. This is especially true of technical documentation, which is an art in and of itself. (Granted, it’s a boring art, but hey—the world needs its tech writers. Without user manuals and stuff, how could we figure out how to use our iPads?… Oh wait.)

So to preserve the sanity of all operative members in both your internal and extended localization teams, you should first take a look at your own Tech Pubs department and secure concrete answers to the following questions:

  • Are your tech writers using simple or controlled English?
  • Are you using a content management system?
  • Have you considered adopting DITA or other content management standards?
  • Are your tech writers writing with translation in mind?

If we’re talking pure technical documentation here, then a resounding YES to all of the above questions is what you should be shooting for. Writing with controlled English, squelching colorful turns of phrase and colloquialisms—all within a defined framework—is one of the best ways to not only ensure the quality of ensuing translations, but to significantly cut translation costs and optimize future reuse. When you apply these practices to your source content development process, you’re effectively minimizing the existence of variables—variables that (drum roll, please)… exacerbate the subjectivity of your translators and reviewers!

(You thought I’d lost my focus, didn’t you?) 🙂

Your choice of reviewer should depend on the type of project.

 

We’ve touched on this already in part one of Translation Review Week, but it bears repeating here: reviewers, like translators, are not Jacks of all Trades. So rule number one of choosing the right reviewer is that you employ the person with the technical, linguistic, and vocational background most relevant to the project at hand.

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To wit:

  • Engineers should not review MarCom content.
  • MarCom people should not review technical content.
  • Lawyers should not review anything but legal content.
  • Life Sciences content must be reviewed by a subject-matter expert.
  • Aspiring writers should not review anything. Ever.

The list goes on, but you get the point—choose someone who knows what they’re dealing with and you are much more likely to minimize the occurrence of changes made merely for the sake of making changes.

A quick note about transcreation review

 

The review of transcreated marketing collateral is a whole other beast. It’s a notoriously messy process. And the reason why transcreation review often becomes messy is not necessarily related to having chosen the wrong person to perform the review—but that does come into play. Rather, the biggest cause of post-transcreation hullabaloo is the fact that, more than likely, the content wasn’t transcreated in the first place.

When your LSP sends you an Excel sheet with a list of ninety-some languages, detailing cents-per-word pricing for each one—those prices are for literal translations. We know that translation buyers hate it, but you just can’t get quality transcreated content for the prices you’re paying. Transcreation, true to its name, is an act of creation, not just translation. When transcreating, translators don’t just proffer a grammatically correct A=B document in the target language. Transcreation involves taking the entire feeling behind a given message and recreating it in both the target language and in the target culture. It takes a lot of time and marketing expertise, and no bilingual copywriter in his right mind is going to spend a week eviscerating himself on paper for a sentence or phrase that’ll bring in about 40 to 50 cents.

So to avoid a completely ineffective and maddening transcreation review process, you need to first pay for transcreated material in the first place and then talk to your LSP about the best method of ensuring its cultural and linguistic accuracy as perceived by the target audience.

Getting the right people on board

 

In addition an appropriate operational background and subject-matter expertise, we suggest that you work with your language service provider to find reviewers with the following qualifications (in no particular order):

  • Fluency in the target language and at least a strong working knowledge of the source language – Complete fluency in the target language is a given—being located in the target market is even better. Beyond that, however, it’s essential that your reviewers have at least a strong understanding of the source language. This helps to ensure that key terminology is used correctly and that there is no mistranslated content, etc. Naturally, full fluency in the source language is ideal.
  • Formal training in the translation process – They don’t have to be translators themselves, but reviewers ought to be aware of the challenges faced by translators in order to ensure a certain degree of sensitivity to the importance of source-text fidelity.
  • The ability to analyze written language – It’s a widely touted fallacy that reviewers need to be good writers. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Someone with strong writing skills probably isn’t the best candidate, because a writer will be inclined to re-write the material he or she is reviewing (Y’know, I think it would sound better this way…). You’d be better off looking for a good analyzer, someone who can closely examine a given document to check for the proper representation of your company’s brand and voice.
  • Technical and/or subject-matter expertise – We touched on this several times already but it’s important, so we’ll say it again: do not, do not recruit a reviewer who doesn’t have technical, vocational or otherwise professional experience working in the same domain to which your documentation applies. This is something that you absolutely must insist on and, if you don’t, it’s something that your LSP should insist on your insisting on.
  • Long-term availability – Performing linguistic review usually isn’t a full-time job, but your reviewers should at least be able to commit to a long-term relationship with your organization. Employing the same reviewer from one (related) projected to the next is one of the best ways to promote consistent, focused, and quality reviews. Being able to leverage brand, product, and stylistic knowledge is an undeniably powerful way to save time, money, and aneurisms.
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  • Willingness to compromise – Thanks to Autumn H., a commenter on Tuesday’s blog entry, for this point, because it’s an important one. Basically, the ability and willingness to communicate effectively (and often), compromise, and ditch the ego is a necessary characteristic of a professional reviewer. Disputes will occur, but someone who’s able to work through them and find the right solution for your organization is most definitely the right reviewer for you.

 

One last note before we wrap this entry up: All of these qualifications and suggestions apply to reviewers regardless of whether you employ an in-house or third-party method of review. However, if you do employ the in-house method of review, there’s one rule-of-thumb that we must emphasize, which is that you should make sure that the person whom you’ve appointed to review a given project is actually the person who reviews it.

All too often, designated in-house reviewers get busy with their primary responsibilities. As a result, they either put review work on the backburner or pass it off to somebody else, who passes it off to somebody else, who passes it off to somebody else, ad infinitum. Oftentimes, the translated document that, for better or worse, will have a huge effect on the success of your product overseas lands in lap of the lowest common denominator within the company: the person who just can’t say no. This will inevitably lead to a bad, ineffective and possibly damaging review.

If you can manage to find someone who meets all of the above requirements, then you are one step closer to achieving Review Nirvana.

Make sure and come back tomorrow for the fourth and last step in Translation Review Week, where we’ll discuss Getting the Most out of the Right Tools.

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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CSOFT International is a translation, localization, and globalization services provider that helps international businesses reach out to customers around the world.