Translation Projects and Priorities

Managing your Translation Projects Priorities

When you’re starting off any localized translation project, it goes without saying that you want the cheapest, most effective, and best quality project that there is possible. No one would start off their project looking for the most expensive, most ineffective, and lowest quality project.When it comes down to it, though, we don’t live in a perfect world. There are some things that are out of our control when it comes to a translation project. Just because there are things out of our control when it comes to a translation project doesn’t mean we shouldn’t maximize the things that are in our control. It’s by doing this that you ensure the success and overall effectiveness of your translation service.

In this post, we’re going to look at time, cost, and quality when it comes to a translation project.

The Trio of Translation Projects

Story goes that a manager at NASA once hung a sign that read “Quality Time Cost.” A smartypants engineer then wrote beneath the sign “Pick 2.” While this was meant to be a joke at the expense of the manager, there’s actually a lot of truth to this joke. With a translation project and indeed any project, there’s always some kind of trade-off that has to be made.

Those who are familiar with project management are no doubt familiar with this trio of quality, time, and cost. These three attributes are essential to the success of just about any project you can possibly have. The key really is to look at quality, time, and cost, and determine which two are most important to you. Then once you’ve made this determination, these will be the two things that you focus most intently on.

Time and Translation

Some translation projects need to be marked urgent and finished as soon as humanly possible, while others have a more lenient due date and can be de-prioritized. The way that you find this out is by asking the question and attempting to have it answered by your project leader. This will ensure that the right projects get prioritized while the ones that can be budgeted more time will be put on the back burner.

The average amount of work that a translator can translate in a day is 2,000 words. If your project consists of 20,000 words, then you’ll have to budget about 10 days for your project to go over well. You’ll also have to remember to factor in proofing, and editing, and desktop publishing when you’re factoring in this time. Always err on the side of more time just to give yourself a reasonable cushion from which to work. The key here is to make the cushion large enough to reasonably accommodate the needs of your project while not making it too large to where you’re expanding that bubble to a too-large state.

If that turnaround time isn’t enough for you and your individual translation project, there are ways that you can eat into the delivery due date while affecting the cost and the quality. Let’s take a look at some of these ways of reducing the time needed for a project.

Use several linguists.

Using several different linguists is one of the best and easiest ways to cut down on the turnaround time of a project. Keep in mind, though, that you’ll be creating some extra work for yourself. This is because there will be different “voices” that emerge during the course of the translation, and they’ll have to be modified to jibe together. If the piece is highly stylistic, this becomes all the more difficult to reconcile these two or several voices. You’ll definitely have your work cut out with this one, although it can work.

Don’t use proofers or editors.

One of the best ways to save on both time and cost is to cut out the proofreaders and editors from the process of translation. This way whatever the translator wrote down gets passed along. The downside to this, of course, is that proofers and editors serve as the last ditch effort to contain and remove grammatical errors and stylistic foibles. Without them there, the quality of the work will suffer. As we saw before, it’s all about picking two qualities and sticking with them.

Use machine translation.

Machine translation can be an incredibly fast process to turn around material at a quick clip. In some cases (such as if you use Google Translate), it’ll even be free. At the very least, you can find a variety of machine translation services for way cheap. The only downside here, again, is quality. It’s a real gamble when you translate via a machine, and that might not be a gamble that you’re willing to take. It can be very difficult to turn around and trust your company’s entire reputation on a machine.

Use human-enhanced machine translation.

Human-enhanced machine translation is when you use a machine to translate a project and then use a human translator to help clean up the edges so to speak. This method is very quick and far cheaper than a tradition translation, editing, and proofing job would be. The only problem here is that even though it’ll be cleaned up by a human translator, this translation will still be rougher than if it were just translated by a human to begin with. Again, you’re still leaving a lot of the translation up to chance with these machines, and the translator won’t be going through the whole project to make it perfect. They won’t even know what to improve in the first place, as they haven’t done the translation themselves.

Quality and Translation

When your project contains highly technical or highly sensitive information, it’s best that you focus primarily on quality for the project. The best thing to remember when it comes to looking for quality is the old adage you get what you paid for. A high-quality translator who has an advanced degree and real-world work experience will be far better than an entry level translator any day. At the same time, that high-quality translator is not going to come cheap. You’re going to need to be able to plunk down the cash to secure such a translator for your projects going into the future.

The more levels that you add to your translation project the longer the turnaround time is going to be and the more expensive it’s going to be cost-wise. Let’s look at some of the ways that you can maximize the quality of your project.

Use certified processes.

There are certain certified processes in the world of translation, and these processes can be utilized to more effectively run a translation project since these certifications focus on the overall quality of a project.

Use experts in the subject matter.

Using someone who is an expert in the field is the best way to ensure that you will come away with a quality translation. There have been all too many times where someone with a simple literature degree was tasked with translating something such as nuclear engineering, only to get the whole project wrong. They can translate the project word for word but miss the entire concept behind the task, which is what leads to project failure. If you want a high-quality job done, then you need to go with a professional who is a native speaker of the language, someone with an advanced degree, someone with working knowledge of the subject matter, and someone who has years of experience translating.

Use translators, editors, and proofreaders.

It should go without saying that you go with all three, but not everyone does when it comes to conducting a translation. There are plenty of instances where instead of a translator a machine translations service is used instead. There are also times when a proofer and editor are neglected and taken out of the equation in order to save on money. Just like someone can’t edit their own writing, a translator can’t properly edit their own copy. This is where an editor and a proofer come in handy to properly ensure the integrity of the material.

Use back translation.

Back translation is a wonderful way to ensure proper translation of the source document. What happens during back translation is that the document that has been “forward-translated” into the destination language is then translated back to the source language by a translator who has no knowledge of the source material. What then happens is that the back translated copy is compared to the original material to see if there are any translation discrepancies or any issues at all. This is an ingenious way to add to quality, though it does cost a little more and take a bit more time.

Cost and Translation

If funds are your issue, then what you need to focus on most is cost. There is a variety of ways that you can ensure the cost of your project is at the lowest. Let’s explore these ways.

Use machine translation.

We talked briefly before about the benefits of machine translation. What you gain in cheapness, however, you lose in overall quality. The savings that you have in the short term might be undone by the cost of mis-translations in the long term.

Ask a bilingual friend or employee to translate.

One of the best ways to save on cost is to ask a bilingual friend or employee to translate the document for you. While this will save you on cost, however, these are not trained professionals, and they might not have knowledge of the subject matter. It’s advised to proceed with caution here.

When you’re starting off any localized translation project, it goes without saying that you want the cheapest, most effective, and best quality project that there is possible. No one would start off their project looking for the most expensive, most ineffective, and lowest quality project. When it comes down to it, though, we don’t live in a perfect world. There are some things that are out of our control when it comes to a translation project. Just because there are things out of our control when it comes to a translation project doesn’t mean we shouldn’t maximize the things that are in our control. It’s by doing this that you ensure the success and overall effectiveness of your translation project.