What you and your clients need to know about translation (Translation, Getting it Right)

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What you and your clients need to know about translation (Translation, Getting it Right by Chris Durban)

Does it really need to be translated?

Rather than blindly translate documents in full – hundreds of pages – decide with your client (or sales team) which information is actually required. You can generally axe padding, including self-congratulatory prose and lists of all the inhouse departments that have worked to make the product a success. Your foreign clients/partners do not know and do not care. Such passages can even be counterproductive, making your company appear self-centred and arrogant.

In 1999, a financial institution in France trimmed a 500-page user manual down to 230 pages with the help of an expert translator, who identified redundancies and sections that did not apply to foreign clients – before starting the translation proper.

A firm of patent lawyers in California regularly calls in a specialist translator to scan Japanese patent documents and give a quick oral summary; together lawyers and translator then determine which documents need to be fully translated.

Translate only relevant sections of existing documents, or produce shorter documents in your own language and have these translated.


There are hundreds of ways a translation project can go off track: ridiculous deadlines, ambiguities in source text amplified by the translator not asking questions, misapplied MT (machine translation), no proofreading of typeset text by a native speaker, blissful unawareness of an over-confident translator operating in a vacuum, poor coordination of large projects, poor cheap freelance translator, poor expensive freelance translator, poor cheap translation company, poor expensive translation company, no client input, and on and on. By applying even half the tips in this guide, you will improve your chances of getting a translation that works.

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