Common Translation Problems… and how to solve them!
Quality translation is vital if you want to successfully enter a new market. One of the toughest challenges for any company, is achieving this on a limited budget and in a reasonable timeframe, without losing your mind in the process! So before your company launches onto the global stage, let’s consider 4 common translation problems and how to solve them.
1. Cultural nuance and resonance
Naturally translation requires linguistic skill and expertise in the grammatical structures of both languages, but it also requires sensitivity to cultural differences, both in expression and tradition. The reader of a good translation should not be aware they are reading a translation. As such, translation is both a cultural and a linguistic exercise.
- Words with no direct translation equivalent
- Idioms and figures of speech
- Cultural and regional references
- Humour and sarcasm
Often there are words, expressions and idioms that cannot be translated directly and/or there are issues regarding culture, tradition or propriety. Furthermore, two languages might express the same idea or concept in very different ways, and jokes very rarely work in translation. Professional translators often spend considerable time getting the phrasing right and will sometimes need to collaborate with a native-speaking copywriter or editor.
Depending on the subject matter, you can avoid many of these translation problems by simplifying the copy. Use concise and clear language, and remove colloquial or specific localised references.
For copy that needs to be colloquial to be impactful — such as a marketing tagline, or communications aimed at children or young people — you might want to consider transcreation. Transcreation is the process of adapting text or a message from one language and culture to another, while maintaining the impact and intention of the original. This is a creative process — which requires giving the transcreator some independence to alter and re-work the copy. Transcreation is sometimes compared to “free” translation, however this is not strictly accurate since it can involve entirely replacing copy and/or concepts, rather than simply re-writing.
2. Budgets and deadlines
Quality translation takes time, and qualified translators are professionals. Reviewers and editors also need time to consider the text and complete their work. If you are translating into a number of languages, this could involve considerable ‘traffic’ for the project manager.
Translation agencies (such as Quicksilver Translate) work with multiple translators, and can handle translation projects into multiple languages simultaneously. If the project is urgent, we can assign multiple translators to the same project, and use a single reviewer to ensure the style and tone is consistent.
Working with CAT tools is also essential. With each translation we do for our clients, will build a Translation Memory (TM). TMs are databases of all the work we have done for you, broken down into single segments (ie. a sentence). When you send us a new project, we can compare it with your client-specific TM and scan for repeated text — such as product descriptions or names. Any copy that we have translated for you previously, will be offered to the translator for re-use. This saves time, and saves you money as, naturally, we don’t charge for translating the exact same phrase a second time.
3. Quality with Machine translation
We know, we get it… it’s cheap! It’s quick! And of course, it’s tempting for companies on a tight budget to rely on the machine to get it right. But machine translation, even the new AI models (such as ChatGPT) are still not reliable. Translation problems do occur: mistranslations, phrasing that is confusing or unclear, and frankly, it is highly unlikely that any AI-generated translation will read as natural, human language, expressed in the way a local, native-speaker would say it. We have posted before on this topic — why AI cannot yet do high-quality translation (and perhaps, never will).
PEMT, post-editing machine translation, offers the best of both worlds. The initial translation is produced by an AI model, which can save considerable time on bulk tasks. Then bilingual, human editors go through the translation line-by-line and re-work as necessary to produce the final version. They make sure it is linguistically and stylistically correct, and that it is an accurate representation of the original document. This saves time, and ensures that your copy maintains the original quality.
Post-editing can be light: correcting mistakes, making sure that the resulting text is comprehensible, and reviewing some of the phrasing. Full post-editing goes much deeper, editing the text for accuracy, clarity, flow, as well as local resonance.
4. Design and formatting
So your brochure looks beautiful, you hired a skilled creative to design it and the layout is perfect. Now you need it translated. Worst case scenario: someone in your office is going to have to copy and paste all the text into a new document, and then copy and paste all the translated text back into the original layout, being careful to maintain the formatting (bold, italic, size) as you go. This is time-consuming, and not so easy if you don’t speak the target language — will you recognise which word should be bold?
A better option: you ask your translation agency to run the file through their CAT tools — so no copy and pasting. However, when it comes back to you there’s a new set of of translation problems!
- The text doesn’t fit into the space available
- Paragraphs are split across text boxes instead of one
- Titles have run onto two lines instead of just one
- The spacing has changed
- Images and graphics contain text that was not editable, so hasn’t been translated
- The font doesn’t support all the characters in the target language (such as, â ö ß ñ).
And let’s not get into hyphenation issues, or alternative alphabets/scripts (think Russian, Chinese, Greek, Hebrew, etc) or right-to-left scripts (such as Urdu and Arabic).
Use an integrated translation and DTP service. There are savings to be made — and efficiencies created — by giving your translation partner control of the layout of the documents you need to be translated.
- Send us the document, specifying your translation requirements; we send it back, translated, reviewed and ready to deploy.
- As we translate into more languages the initial design costs pay-off (increasing ROI) — as the layout is only created once, for all languages.
- Quality assurance and review costs are negligible since DTP and translation are in the hands of the same team.
- Our translation team can make any last-minute changes directly into the layout, without re-extraction and re-inputting of text. Thus, reducing post-processing costs.
- Updated versions of the same document in subsequent years entail no extra layout costs.
Quicksilver’s integrated approach reduces delivery times, increases productivity and eliminates errors. A set of benefits which translate into improved efficiency and productivity, as well as a significant cost reduction.
If you prefer to prepare your own files, we would be delighted to work with your formatted and optimised documents. You will find some tips on how to properly format files for translation here.
The ‘quality’ of a translation is hard to measure definitively. That said, a good translation:
- Maintains both the brand identity (style and tone) and the impact of the original content
- Resonates with your target audience
- Makes the best use of your resources and budget
It is possible, with planning and the right translation partner, to achieve all three goals.