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Barbara Jungwirth of reliable translations llc writes about language and the business of translation.

What Can I Do to Reduce That Cost?

After I spent two posts (“How Much Will It Cost?” Part I and Part II) explaining how translation services are priced, you will probably wonder how you can lower that cost. Here are my tips on steps you can take to reduce translation expenses.

  1. Handle formatting in-house
  2. Internationalize source text
  3. Re-use text
  4. Handle project management in-house
  5. Tighten source text


1. Handle formatting in-house

Formatting text to match particular specifications takes time, as I explained in a previous post. Translated text usually takes up more space than the original (source) text. (On average 20% more for European languages.) Fitting translated text into templates with tight spacing requirements is therefore difficult and time-consuming. Any other desktop publishing work, such as aligning the images with the translated text, or modifying graphs to include translated legends, also take additional time, which must be compensated. Handling these alignment tasks and other formatting work yourself will therefore lower your translation bill.

A note of caution, though: Unless you, or a staff member, can read the target language (the language into which your text is translated) well, you should have the translator or a proofreader fluent in that language check the final formatted product. This step ensures that the text flows properly from one column or page to the next, captions are paired correctly with images, etc.


2. Internationalize source text

If your text is – or may in the future – be translated into more than one language, it pays to edit the source document for an international audience. This means removing cultural references, expressing dates and measurements in an international format, replacing country-specific information, etc. Such editing tends to shorten the text and often also clarifies ambiguities. A shorter text costs less to translate (see below), and unambiguous text saves you time, which you would otherwise have to spend to answer translators’ questions – likely the same question from several translators, each of whom works into a different language.


3. Re-use text

Assuming that you have more than one document relating to your product or service, or your business as a whole, chances are some part of your content will be repeated in multiple texts. If that content is re-written each time it occurs, it will likely be expressed slightly differently and will therefore need to be translated again. However, if the content is expressed in the exact same way in each of these documents, a previous translation of that paragraph or page can be used. This shortens the text that does need to be translated, and thus saves you money. Such content re-use also ensures a consistent writing style, which benefits your branding.

One way to facilitate the re-use of text is to implement a content management system – software that stores your text in a database so documents can be (partially) assembled from previously written chunks of text. If you are considering purchasing such a program, check that it integrates with the translation-support software (CAT tool or TeNT environment) your translator(s) use(s).


4. Handle project management in-house

When your product or service is sold in multiple markets you may need the accompanying text to be translated into several languages. Someone must assemble a team of translators for all the languages you need, distribute your source text to them, track that translations are returned by the specified deadlines, then send these translations to another team of editors, track editing deadlines, etc. Even if you only require translation into one language, three separate language professionals are likely involved: a translator to provide the initial target text, an editor to fix awkward phrasing, ensure internal consistency, etc., and a proofreader to check for typographical and grammatical errors, text continuity of the final productm etc,. You can save money if you coordinate these teams yourself instead of paying a translation agency or translator to do so.


5. Tighten source text

As I explained in a previous post, translations are usually priced per word or standard line of text (55 characters). The longer the text, the more it costs to have it translated. You may save money in the long run if you have the text edited to express ideas more succinctly. Sometimes a picture can illustrate a concept better than a paragraph of text could. Bullet points may capture some information better than long descriptive sentences. Tightening a technical text in this way may also make it more readable. Of course, don’t go overboard: a list of acronyms that replaces two paragraphs of explanatory text in a manual may save translation costs, but it will also make the text extremely difficult to understand.

A Documentation Manager’s Questions About Translation lists the questions I will answer in this series of posts.

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