With no guidance or visibility into how content is being developed by various authors and no defined style, translation can get chaotic, costly and inconsistent. Conscientious content authoring for translation is one way to remedy this before even handing over your content.
Let’s explore why it’s important to standardize your source content, and how you can implement these practices to boost translation quality, consistency and overall cost efficiencies across your entire organization.
Improving the quality of the source text can achieve the following goals:
- Improve customer experience by providing clearer written English text
- Reduce translation cost by reusing segments and applying machine translation
- Improve the quality of translation by making the meaning of the source less ambiguous
To do this successfully, you must:
- Understand your audience
- Learn the translation process (human and machine)
- Identify where you struggle (your challenges to translation)
We’ll discuss points one and two today in part one of this two-part series. Next week we’ll cover point three, as well as give you some distinct actionable tips you can implement into your own writing practice to improve content authoring for translation.
1. Understand your audience
When you’re authoring content for native English speakers—and are one yourself—it’s easier to know what you can say and how the message will be perceived. You can inflect your brand tone and voice into the messaging and use commonly known idioms or comparisons. But when you’re authoring content to also be translated, you must also consider those audiences.
Are you speaking to an audience where English is a second language? Or to foreign language speakers? What about machine translation (MT) engines?
Challenges arise as you need to create content with a high readability factor so it will likely be understood by the intended reader. Also, those idioms that are culturally specific, or that reference that a global audience might not understand, will need to go. As you’re content authoring for translation, keeping it simple and removing ambiguity that only native English speakers understand will ensure higher quality translations.
One thing to remember is that languages are intricate. Each one has a different set of rules, structure and even set of vocabulary. Words in one language may not even exist in another. It is up to the translator to understand the context of the message and reproduce the original meaning. Using straightforward terminology to provide a clear message—and consistently—prevents any confusion and ensures the message doesn’t get “lost in translation.”
Does your strategy involve using machine translation (MT)? MT engines—currently anyway—cannot understand language or grammar. Rather they only read zeros and ones and use frequency to determine the right match for words. This means that simpler communication will go farther in MT effectiveness.
Of course, the challenge then is to produce writing that isn’t totally and utterly boring.
And frankly, some types of content—global marketing for instance—inevitably require a certain level of creativity. So, if you fear producing general content will diminish the style of your messaging or brand voice, look into transcreation—a translation process that focuses more on creative localization by tailoring your entire marketing strategy for a new foreign market.
2. Learn the translation process
The translator’s world is probably one you’re not too familiar with. However, understanding how translators get your content from point A to point B will help you write in a way that ensures a more seamless translation process.
First off, just like many other professions, tools are utilized to make the process more efficient. Translators work in translation tools. These CAT tools (short for computer-assisted translation tools) are software programs that translators use to automate part of the translation process. Essentially, the translator will open the source text in a CAT tool program in order to translate it. The program splits the text into segments—usually individual sentences, but sometimes individual words—known as translation units (TUs). This is done to aid in quicker translations, presenting separate “thoughts” clearly to the translator.
To offer a simple visual, generally, the program will present a two-column grid with the source text segments displayed on the left and an empty cell for each corresponding segment on the right. The translator enters the correct translation for each separate segment in those empty cells and the CAT tool saves the source segment and its translation as a “pair.”
CAT tools benefit both the translators—making their job easier—and the client, by allowing for quicker, more accurate translations. There are obviously a multitude of other features and benefits that we’ll get into some other time.
You can see though, why it might be useful as the content producer to know how a translator moves through the translation process. As you’re content authoring for translation you can be mindful about where the program might break up your source text for each segment. You can make sure the segments clear and concise while still getting the message across.
Now, what about when machine translation (MT) is introduced to your process? Since machine translation relies on a set of rules built into the software program, content that’s ambiguous or that doesn’t follow those rules can sometimes be problematic.
Machine translation engines train on translation memories so the more consistent you are with terminology and Standard English grammar and punctuate rules, the better the MT output.
Content authoring for translation takes a bit of practice
But, the more you know about the tools, technology and steps involved, the better prepared you can be to aid in that process from the start, rather than—unintentionally of course—making it more cumbersome and tedious.
Stay tuned for next week’s post as we conclude the discussion around content authoring for translation and offer some helpful tips!