This is a topic as old as the translation itself. How do you avoid translation errors? It’s safe to assume that following the incident at the Tower of Babel, humans faced their first translation problems, forcing them to abandon its construction.
Today, the situation is not as dire, although you can still see funny images of mistranslated slogans, and awkward choices of words on various translated menus on a daily basis.
Having a veal dish translated in a funny way may not make or break a small restaurant, but most companies do not translate menus, but instead, rather face the challenge of producing and translating more and more content, both online and offline.
What do companies do to produce quality translations, and what can you learn from them? As a company that has worked with hundreds of businesses, we can provide you with some insight that might help you avoid translation errors.
#1. Start with high-quality source material
When building a house, you would never save money on the materials. You may cut some corners here and there, but everyone is aware that without quality materials you cannot create a high-quality product.
People often forget this regard to language, as it is not physically tangible. All you really need to do is put yourself into the translator’s shoes. If someone gave you one page of text full of spelling and grammatical errors, you would most probably have a very difficult time translating it. Add some country-specific phrases, and you have a recipe for disaster on your hands.
Translators will very likely try to correct all the issues in the source text, but remember that their job is not to create your content from scratch. They can miss a certain issue, or not be able to rectify the source to the extent that it will sound good and natural in the target language.
That’s why you should always try to create a clean copy of your source text. Avoid complicating things, and try to think globally, not only locally, when working on any content. Read more about creating content with localization in mind here.
#2. Provide context
Clients very often want to translate content exported from a CMS or a similar environment. Such content usually contains individual words and phrases that mean close to nothing without the right context. The same can be said about websites, which, when translated out of context, can turn into a real localization nightmare.
The most effective solution is to provide the people working on the translation with the context. When it comes to website translation, the easiest method is to use a tool that enables translators to enter translations directly on your website. For documents, sharing a reference file is the right thing to do, and when it comes to software you can provide translators with screenshots.
However, you need to remember that every company makes certain marketing decisions and uses language accordingly. The translator cannot know all your internal decisions and thoughts and that’s why you should share the background for certain terms or phrases that you employ.
#3. Choose the right translation approach for your business
Even if you have created your content with localization in mind and provided the context, you can still make many translation mistakes, if you don’t choose the right approach. What does the right approach really mean? This is not an easy question to answer as every company will have different priorities. You might choose a different translation for translating FAQs and a different approach for translating websites.
Many companies try hard to cut translation costs and that’s why they opt to just machine-translate their content. While this is a perfectly valid approach for certain types of content, your marketing department will hate you if you choose to apply this approach to any sort of marketing message.
Having sensitive content and failing to get a reviewer to check the final product for readability and grammatical issues will make you lose more in the long term – you will lose customers, and still have to correct what could have been corrected in the very beginning.
If your priority is to save on translation, you can have your content machine-translated and checked by an in-country reviewer. Again, not perfect for avoiding translation errors in marketing messages, but you could probably translate most of your website content this way.
The truth is, you need to define how low you want to go without compromising the quality and stick to this throughout the project. Read more about choosing the right translation approach for your business here.
If you follow these simple steps, we guarantee that you will be able to avoid translation errors and produce high-quality translations. Of course, if you need any guidance on how to approach the localization of your content, we are always there for you to help you out!