5 Approaches To Translating Documents

5 Approaches To Translating Documents

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Today, we want to briefly cover the pros and cons of different approaches to document translation. Depending on what you need at a given point, you can choose the approach which suits you best.

When one talks about translating documents in these uncertain times, it’s difficult to omit one aspect – the pricing. While this has always been an important factor in the translation industry (arguably, the most important), there are also other factors to keep in mind.

First of all, you need to understand that there are different technological solutions, different workflows, and different combinations of the two and we will try to make it crystal clear for you. Let’s dive in!

#1. Machine translation

Pros: Cheap and fast

Cons: Quality differences between languages, file limitations, privacy

Machine translation has a bad reputation, but this is slowly changing. In the past, using this type of translation was very often a hit and miss, as the machine translation engines were statistical in nature, and they were using what they had at hand to guess the translation with a statistical probability, mostly word by word.

This changed with the arrival of neural machine translation engines. Now, machine translation engines, such as Google Translate and DeepL try to understand the whole sentence and to keep improving the translation quality. It works quite well for many language combinations, especially the mast popular ones (like English, Spanish, French, and German).

You still have to keep three things in mind:

  1. Translations from English into Japanese and English into Spanish will differ in quality.
  2. You cannot just upload a 20 MB file with 100.000 words to Google Translate.
  3. What happens with the content, once it’s machine-translated?

If you need a solution to the above, take a look at TUFT, our translation services online platform that offers machine translation without the invasion of privacy, with no limitation of words or file size and offering high quality at the most competitive prices on the market.

#2. Machine translation + human review

Pros: A lot faster and cheaper than professional human translation 

Cons: Not appropriate for nuanced content

Imagine your content machine-translated, as described above, but then having a native human reviewing it, correcting potentially problematic parts. This is what you get with machine translation and human review. 

Of course, you’ll still need a platform that will enable you to efficiently post-edit machine translation. Once you have it, post-editing machine-translated content makes the most sense for the majority of content types.

Perhaps you may reconsider this approach for marketing texts if you don’t want to end up on history’s list of largest marketing blunders, but it does seem like a great solution for translating documents, right?

#3. Professional human translation

Pros: Highest quality

Cons: Expensive, relatively slow

This is the traditional approach to translating documents, and to translating content in general. In our opinion, with the technological advancements we have made, there is no need to have most of the content translated by a human from scratch. It just makes no sense to pay so much for the translation, unless the source content is really sensitive, as discussed above.

Marketing messages with nuanced meanings or life-depending content are truly best translated from scratch by humans. For most other content, consider machine-translation with native human reviewers.

#4. Outsourcing

Pros: Fewer things to worry about

Cons: More expensive

Now we’re getting into the workflow questions. It makes sense to outsource your translations if you are a relatively small company, if you don’t have offices or partners in other countries, or if you simply don’t have the time to deal with any additional obligations.

However, you also need to keep in mind that you usually need to review the translations as well. If there are any changes to be made, these usually need to be implemented by the translators, which kicks off the whole review cycle. This means you will end up spending time reviewing and commenting on the translation. If so, why not translate the content internally? This leads us to the last point.

#5. Internal translation

Pros: Less expensive

Cons: You need to set aside some time

This really depends on your answers to specific questions. Do you really need to outsource all your translations, especially if you are a multinational company? Could you make use of machine translation and post-editing, if you are translating documents into French, and you have a native French speaker working at your office, or an office in France?

Would the colleague spend less time post-editing machine-translated content than commenting and reviewing content outsourced to a translator who does not know the terminology used within your company? Only you can answer all the questions raised above.

Defining your priorities is a must!

All of the above means that you need to define your priorities during the global shutdown, but also once the pandemic ends.

We work remotely, but we are still there for you. If you want to discuss your specific situation, feel free to reach out! As always, there are no strings attached, and you might get new ideas.

And if you want to jump in and use the fastest, most affordable translation services online, try using our latest product mentioned above, TUFT by clicking on the banner below:


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