In addition to price, timing and technical issues, such as file formats, quality assurance questions are often important concerns for documentation managers. Here are some ideas on how to ensure that your translated material will be as good as your original text.
- Pay for editing and proofreading
- Hire in-country reviewer(s)
- Conduct in-country testing
- Use experienced translators
- Start with small projects
1. Pay for editing and proofreading
As the saying goes: Nobody is perfect. Even the best translator will make the occasional mistake. Professional organizations recommend the “four-eye principle”: have a second pair of eyes proofread and/or edit the translation. That second person will obviously not work for free, so you will need to factor that extra cost into your budget. This is another reason not to assign translation (or most other) work solely based on the lowest price.
2. Hire in-country reviewer(s)
Someone in the country where the documentation will be used may be able to provide better feedback than a translator or editor who may not have lived in that country for a number of years. That said, the receptionist at your Berlin branch may not be the best person to review the German translation of the specifications for your computer-controlled motor pump. No offense to receptionists, but you want technical translations reviewed by someone familiar with the technology, preferably someone who also speaks the source language. Contemporary technical German, in particular, uses a number of English words and phrases in ways in which they are not used in the US or UK. A good reviewer needs to be aware of such potential pitfalls and must also be able to step outside the jargon and acronyms used daily in your industry, especially if the documentation is intended for end users.
3. Conduct in-country testing
Depending on the equipment or software being documented, you may want to have the documentation tested in the country where it will be used. In addition to checking that the text is easily understood, such testing will also uncover potential problems nobody might have thought of, such as the prevalence of older computers and modems that cannot download your image-rich documentation as a single file.
4. Use experienced translators
Translators, like any other freelancers, who consistently produce poor-quality work are unlikely to last in this business – unless they work extremely cheaply for clients who do not care about well-written documentation. Here again, beware of basing your decisions solely on price. Ask potential translators how long they have been in business and what experience they have in your particular field. The more specialized and experienced someone is the higher a price he or she can – and probably will – command. This does not mean translators new to the field necessarily provide poor quality, but just with anyone else new to your business you may need to provide more supervision than you do with someone more experienced.
5. Start with small projects
When contracting with a new translator, start with a relatively small project and have the translation reviewed, preferably by another translator, before moving on to larger projects. This way you can ensure that the translator meets your standards of quality and the translator, in turn, can ensure that you provide the resources and payment you promised.
These tips, as well as the items I identified in my earlier posts, will help ensure a good-quality translation. In the end, however, it all comes down to trusting the translator and editor to do it right – especially if you are not fluent in both (or all the) languages concerned.
My next – and final – post in this series will offer ideas for how you can help your translators do the best possible job.
A Documentation Manager’s Questions About Translation lists the questions I answer in this series of posts.