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Establishing what your translation needs are

It’s essential to establish the real business needs behind a translation project

The first step towards a successful translation project is to understand clearly your business, linguistic and technical needs. Business translation is more complex than many people think. Most of us would agree that there is no single ‘right’ way of translating a word, phrase, paragraph or document. People have different backgrounds which shape their opinions about what sounds or feels better in a particular context. As a result, translation is an imperfect science. There are ‘correct’ and ‘incorrect’ ways of translating texts and parts of texts, to be sure, but there is a large grey area where legitimate questions of style or personal preference prevail.

Imagine a meeting with the marketing department in your company. You’re designing a new corporate brochure, and everyone has their own take on what should be said. You know how difficult it is to reach a consensus in this type of situation! Now imagine reaching that same consensus in another language, a language with which you are probably not very familiar (or in which you are not as fluent) and which you thus do not feel confident pronouncing on.

Effective Project Management

You need to decide who to trust. Will it be someone within or associated with your company (a colleague, a distributor)? That is fine as long as the person giving advice is an expert in your industry, understands the original English text perfectly and abstains from making strong judgments about the ‘right’ tone for the document. Otherwise, you may end up jeopardising the results. The core issue is that you are responsible for publishing the document in question, and yet you have no surefire way of judging its quality! Who do you turn to?

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The documentation process is full of obstacles like this. Most marketing and technical departments often wonder how difficult it can be, really: ‘come on, it’s only a translation’ they’ll say, as though it were a question of applying a mathematical formula. Some might even add: ‘I’ve had translations done before and I’ve always been very pleased!’

This may well be the case for small projects with flexible deadlines, non-technical language and an in-house translator who knows the company and its terminology inside out. But take away the dedicated translator, add more languages, push for a tight deadline or include technical terms, and you are treading on thin ice.

It’s vital to consider the purpose of the document, and the target audience. The tone and style of a Business-to-Business document, will be quite different to a campaign directed at new customers. Especially, if you are breaking into a new market or region, where there may be cultural differences, or preferences. Furthermore, a marketing campaign directed to young (18-24 year) professionals in Madrid; would be quite different from one aimed at middle-aged, professional Cuban-Americans in Miami!

Each company has its own special translation and documentation needs. QuickSilver Translate can help you to work out exactly what yours are.

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