As promised, we’re picking up where we left off last week and discussing content authoring for translation. As a refresher, in this two-part series we are exploring the importance of standardizing source content, and doling out some tips so you can implement these practices to boost translation quality, consistency and overall cost efficiencies in your own translation program.
Successful content authoring for translation means that first, you must:
- Understand your audience
- Learn the translation process (human and machine)
- Identify where you struggle (your challenges to translation)
Last week we covered points one and two: understanding your audience and learn the translation process—read the full post here to get caught up!
Today we’re chatting about point three: identifying your struggles—the translation kind, not how to get your kids to actually help with laundry. And then we’ll give you some actionable tips so you can leave here with ways to improve your own content authoring for translation.
Identify your struggles
Whether you have a tendency to use slang, abbreviations, run on sentences, odd capitalization rules, idiomatic expressions, personification—the list could go on and on—there are little idiosyncrasies in [English] content that make translating it more difficult.
Find out where you struggle. Do you always have incorrect translations around capitalized words or symbols in the text? Are abbreviations consistently an issue? Ultimately, this is something you can fix from the get go, simply by adjusting the way you write.
And of course, if you don’t already have these tools in place, we strongly encourage you to create and integrate style guides and glossaries into your process. These tools are vital when it comes to terminology management. Consistent terminology at the source and guidance for the linguists translating will greatly impact both the speed and quality of translations—which will inherently affect your cost, for the better. It’s a win-win!
In the meantime, here are a few examples of things to look out for as you’re content authoring for translation:
Minimize the use of acronyms—the biggest challenge when translating these is the inconsistency in formatting them and not knowing whether the acronym should be translated or left in English. If you must use an Acronym, spell out the term, followed by the acronym in parentheses.
Do not use “and/or” in your copy. The meaning cannot be rendered successfully in other languages. If it’s possible just use “and,” or just use “or,” not a combined version.
Use of “as” is ambiguous for machine translation. Do not use it as a synonym for “because” or “while” in subordinate clauses. Both uses are grammatically correct, but they make reading more difficult for the worldwide audience.
Creating new words can lead to mistranslation—specifically in machine-translated content. For example, instead of “multi-streaming” spell out so it says, “multiple streaming.”
If you have to read it more than once to understand it, it’s not straight forward. Watch your use of conjunctions. Break up your run-on sentences to make the message clear.
Gerund: verb ending in –ing
Gerunds are highly ambiguous because they can function as an adjective, noun, or part of a verb. Instead of “…enabling this option” use, “…to enable this option.”
Avoid using need to + infinitive to indicate that an action has to be performed. In Standard English, use “must” for OBLIGATION and “need” for NECESSITY.
Stay away from or limit your use of idioms. Machine translation will convert these into a funny or sometimes offensive translation and some linguists might not understand the analogy. These expressions, for example, could be taken the wrong way upon a mistranslation, “beat around the bush” or “the ball’s in your court.”
Focus the action on the user, or on the tasks from the user’s perspective. “Your phone should now be able to receive calls” should be, “You will now be able to receive call on your phone.”
The pound symbol (aka a hashtag) is used as “number abbreviation for pounds,” a “metadata tag on social media,” and a “button on touch-tone telephones.” To avoid confusion use the full phrase “the # symbol.”
It’s more helpful to use the term “app” together with the app’s name (example “Kindle app” or “Snapchat app”), but do not abbreviate “app” when it stands alone—instead, spell out “application.” This is easier for machine translation.
Don’t coin words beginning with auto- (such as “auto approval”). They may confuse the worldwide audience and may lead to mistranslation in machine translated content. Instead, spell out “automatic.”
Be careful in your use of capitalization. Capitals many times signal a “DoNotTranslate” term, or user interface functionality/option.
Same meaning, slightly different terminology. Parallelism is favored, it helps translate faster and aids readability. (Click/Select/Choose < use the same term consistently in your content.)
Modal verbs create ambiguity and reduce translatability and readability. They don’t exist in other languages. In Standard English, use “can” for POSSIBILITY and “may” for PERMISSION.
In Standard English, use “since” for PASSAGE OF TIME and “because” for REASON WHY.
In Standard English, use “number” for a MATHEMATICAL object used to count, and “amount” for QUANTITY. For instance, we tend to say, “Please specify the number of attendees.” However, it should instead be, “Please specify the amount of attendees.”
Verb + preposition
Don’t split the phrasal verb because machine translation engines cannot grasp the whole meaning. In the case of this phrase: Close completely out of all browser windows, “out of” is getting confused with EXIT. Instead, it should be written this way: Close out all browser windows.
Content authoring for translation: 5 takeaways
In short, remember these five objectives as you write:
- Avoid unnecessary slang and abbreviations
- Be clear, concise and, most importantly, consistent
- Use appropriate, standardized terminology (i.e. Standard English)
- Avoid ambiguity
- Think universally and with each target language in mind
Hopefully, by implementing some of the tips provided you’ll notice improved quality. And at the very least, you now have a better understanding of the intricacies and subtleties of language translation.
If you need more guidance on content authoring for translation don’t hesitate to give us a call, we’d be happy to help!