Find a translator that is willing to communicate openly and use your translation budget wisely.
I think all translators should have this mantra:
When in doubt, leave out ask!
Sometimes translators do not dare ask questions.
Sometimes they do not even have someone to ask to or someone who has the right answers for them.
Have you found a translator that asks you just the right questions, engages in conversation and give you good and useful suggestions? Hold on to him/her!
What I mean is that you should trust, listen and aid your translator when he/she:
Asks the right questions.
I worked on the translation of a tourist information brochure. Right from the beginning of this promotional text I had to choose whether to use the informal or formal “you” in Spanish. We do not have this problem in Swedish and English. You use “you” and the text sets the tone and style for the conversation with your audience.
I had done courses in web copywriting and felt that the tone of the brochure would be too uptight, cold and distant if I used the formal ‘you’. I called and asked the project manager about it. She did not have much information about the text and neither did she speak Spanish herself; so she asked me to choose myself as I felt best.
The best practice here would have been to have someone that knew the company that ordered the translation of the material. That would give us the possibility to talk and find solutions together based on the client’s needs and desires.
It pays off to have a conversation with your language consultant. Lund Translation Team, of which I belong, is working at the moment with a new client based in Sweden, but which has a presence in several European countries through their e-commerce activity. It is necessary for them to feel sure and safe with the choice of key terms before publishing and using them on their platforms. The words chosen have to appeal to the target audience as well as work with SEO. It entails meetings where the copywriter, the translator, the SEO expert, project leader and marketing people are gathered to discuss choices and come up with solutions. Decisions are taken together with the help of the team’s joint skills and knowledge.
With SEO and real people in mind we can then make the final list of terms that will work for the company and its profile.
You are passionate about your product or service. You know it inside out. Thus, you should have no problem sharing this enthusiasm with your translator so that he/she has a better idea of what your texts describe. Your translator should be your ally just as your copywriter is with the rest of your communication.
Choose and handle your ally with care and you will have a service provider you trust and are willing to come back to.
Engages in a dialogue.
I have recently translated the marketing material for the launch of the latest product of a well-known beauty and cosmetics brand. I was informed about the brand’s buying persona and had done research to see the tone and voice of their communication. Still I needed to present suggestions for the new campaign.
I like presenting two or three solutions and explaining the reasons behind my choices and then letting the client choose the option that feels best. This is the same procedure the company goes through when working with the copywriter and the marketing team.
My piece of advice:
The translator needs to be well informed about the company and their needs and goals. This allows the right choice of words and the crafting of the text in the correct style and tone.
I have previously mentioned a translation of a product page that was very badly written in the original language. I could see that the client had made huge efforts in modernizing the web page structure and visual images but the texts had been poorly written.
There was a tremendous amount of repetitions, long sentences and formulations with many secondary clauses. Most importantly, there was a damaging sense that there was no logical or sales plan behind the texts that had been gathered together and clearly pasted from different pages in the old website. The page needed serious development.
I called the client and explained what I thought would not work for them and their image and asked if they wanted me to go on to translate the page as it was or to re-write the text to make it work in the target language.
My piece of advice:
Until one fails and has a bad experience with translation services one does not usually set aside a budget for web copywriting, translations and language consultation. It is usually after some fail attempts to make the texts work that a company decides on investing on good quality services. In the end the whole affair will have cost more than it needed from the start.
Do it right from the beginning and save yourself a headache!
We all know how fast we can lose our credibility and brand positioning in the transparent era of the digital world. We need to avoid mistakes in how we communicate our value both online and offline.
The unfortunate consequences of not communicating properly with your translator might be that your copy is published with mistakes, has a very different tone to the rest of your website or brand communication or is, among other things, simply unclear and confusing. Too often you will not notice that the quality of the text was not the best until after its publication.
Machine translation and freelancing humans
A dictionary will not give you all the answers. A dictionary offers a list of terms that YOU place comfortably in the context in which they belong. You need a language professional with background knowledge in the subject matter of the text, preferably a specialization, and the ability to place words comfortably in the right setting.
I think we might possibly be able to replace translators that literally translate word per word outside a context but we will not be able to replace those professionals that turn your text around to make it sound just as good as the original one.
That is what will make your translations sing; texts with a soul and a personality.
One example in Swedish:
Original in Swedish:
Vi ger ditt hem en helt ny känsla. Våra tapeter, tavlor och designkollektioner gör det enkelt för dig att skapa en unik miljö. I varje rum.
You can get this through machine translation:
Damos a su hogar una sensación totalmente nueva. Nuestra tapeter, tavlory colecciones de diseño hacen que sea fácil para usted para crear un ambiente único. En cada habitación.
This through Google translate:
Damos a su hogar una sensación totalmente nueva. Nuestros fondos de pantalla, fotografías y colecciones de diseño hacen que sea fácil para usted para crear un ambiente único. En cada habitación.
And this thanks to a trasncreator:
Tu hogar te está pidiendo una nueva vida. Con nuestros papeles pintados, nuestras impresiones y diseños de autor lo tienes más fácil que nunca. Por fin puedes reflejar tu personalidad en todos los espacios de tu casa.
I leave you with the brochure “Getting it right” published by The Swedish Association of Professional Translators that will hopefully guide you and help you when needing translations services.
The tile of this post was inspired by a lecture given by the award-winning literary translator Ros Schwartz at a translator Conference in Malmö 2016. I have adopted the phrase “make your translations sing!” as if I had coined it myself. I think it vividly describes what I try to do in my daily work. I thank Ros for an inspiring and reassuring presentation.