Translation and Interpreting in 150+ Languages
Translation Guy’s Secret Sauce Part 2: Chopsticks of Translation
October 28, 2011 - By: - In: Translation - Comments Off on Translation Guy’s Secret Sauce Part 2: Chopsticks of Translation

In Part 2 of Translation Guy’s Secret Sauce, we look to chopsticks for inspiration on translation best practice.

My Japanese fencing teacher once said to me about holding a Kendo bamboo sword, “There are many ways to hold a pair of chopsticks, but there is only one best way.” It is a lesson I have learned painfully well, although it came 30 years to late, since that’s how long it took to blow out my tendon in my index finger due to damage I did to my knuckle from holding my bamboo sword incorrectly for too long.

That’s how translation goes bad too. You never see it coming. A bad practice can go along undetected for a long time, then, when you aren’t looking you blow out a knuckle. Ouch.

Best practice is hard because it doesn’t take care of itself, and the benefits are unnoticeable, until they are. Here is the process we’ve perfected, and is the reason why our clients are the happiest in the business.

At the heart of best practice in managing translation is workflow. This begins with a set of translation assets. Before any translation project starts, each translator has a glossary, translation memory, style guide, reference materials and in hand.

The translator runs the source content against the translation memory, which is a database of every sentence ever translated in the past. These translation memory tools then identify any reusable phrases, and suggests those phrases to the translators as they translate the document using the glossary, style guide and other reference material. Other members of the translation team then provide edit and proof. At 1-800-Translate, we call this process, Prep-TEP for Preparation, Translation, Edit and Proof.

With the translation completed by the language service provider, review and validation of the translation is used to make sure it is as well suited for the intended audience. Additional review by compliance authorities, in-country specialists, or even by end-users themselves, can be used to bring the translation to high polish.

Before or after the final round of linguistic/content review, production teams will incorporate the translation into the appropriate media, recording or subtitling for video, layout for print, and localization for the Web or other software platform. After these final reviews are completed, the approved content is ready to publish.

Most importantly of all, the approved translation is used to update translation assets, incorporated into an updated translation memory and glossary, with any changes to rules noted in the style guide. That way all the work put into making the particular project as good as can be, is easily reused in future projects to reduce future problem.

This workflow has a number of benefits. It keeps the translation software and glossary up to date and consistent. An organization’s staff can re-use existing translations. And quality improves while costs go down.

We try to get all our clients into a workflow like this, no matter how small the project. Pure selfishness on our part, since best practice is the best thing for a good night’s sleep.

In our next “Secret Sauce” post, we’ll look at how to make this happen on an enterprise level: Translation Guy’s Secret Sauce: The Path to Enterprise Translation. Link back to the first post in this three-part series here.

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