Like all specialized areas of activity—and almost certainly your own—translation has its own unique characteristics and requirements. Rest assured that getting the results you want is a snap, and it's easy to simplify the translation process and make it an enjoyable experience. To do so, you need only follow certain principles. Here are a few.

  • Choose a translator who is competent in your field or industry. Commissioning the "lowest bidder" may be tempting, but what about the final result? Will you really get your money’s worth?

    Specialist translators know their areas of expertise well enough to deal with a broad spectrum of subjects in a given area—and if they aren’t qualified to do so, who is?

    With few exceptions, professional translators translate in one direction only, that is, they work into their native language. This way, they are sure to reach their targeted audience. After all, a single unintended nuance is all it takes to undermine months of marketing efforts.

  • Ideally, have your publications written or edited by a writer, especially for complex subjects. This will ensure the clarity of the original text, as well as facilitate translation and avoid incorrect interpretations.

  • Members of professional associations or orders (in Quebec, the Ordre des traducteurs, terminologues et interprètes agréés du Québec or OTTIAQ) have more opportunities for ongoing training and for keeping up to date with developments in their profession.

    OTTIAQ and certain associations also require that their members contract professional liability insurance that protects you in case of a serious blunder (even if they’re few and far between!). They also hold their members to a Code of Ethics.

  • With today’s life in the fast lane, it isn’t unusual for clients to expect translations to be produced almost instantaneously. The fact is that a good translation takes time—but it’s well worth the wait. If writing your manual took months, how could the translation take a single week?

    When setting deadlines, be sure to consult your translator to make sure that they’re realistic.

  • For each translation project, designate a contact person who can answer your translator’s technical or terminological questions. This is essential, especially if the subject is complex, the terminology is specific to your area or business, or your business culture is an important factor.

  • Provide the translator with a maximum of information on the document to translate: the context, goal, readership, constraints (space, time), and final medium (e.g. the Web or a paper document).

  • Illustrations, pictures and diagrams provide your translator with valuable help, especially in technological matters.

    A picture can even help establish a person’s gender. Is Jessie a man or a woman? This detail will be vital in French, since adjectives agree in gender with their subjects.

  • Rest assured that your translator might ask many questions; this is a sign that he has your best interests at heart. Make sure to answer clearly and in detail, and answer all his questions, even when the answer may seem obvious to you.

  • Nothing could be more delicate than translating a modern Website, with its complex structure, multiple pages, forms, and dialogue boxes.

    The last thing to do is to tell the translator, “Here’s the Web address, take a look and tell me how much the translation will cost.” It’s likely that some elements will be overlooked.

    Always provide the original files used to create your Website. If you don’t have them, get them from your programmer or Website designer. If you use an exclusive (proprietary) format, you may also need to convert these files to a commercial format.

    It’s also important to have your translator read the offline version of your site before uploading it to the Web. Converting translated files to Web format doesn’t always work perfectly, without mentioning differences in display depending on the browser or hardware (PC or Mac).

  • Nearly everything has gone digital today. As a result, the number of file formats has skyrocketed, whether general and commercial (Microsoft Office, pdf) or specialized (graphic design, publication, Web). What’s more, some businesses use their own exclusive formats.

    Don’t expect your translator to own all the right software. If you work with him regularly, he will almost certainly acquire your same programs; if not, you may need to convert files, or even allow your translator to work with you on-site using an adapted workstation. Be sure to discuss this with your translator.

  • Your translator is your language specialist. Like all specialists, he bases his suggestions on solid training and extensive experience. Taking advantage of his suggestions is a great way to make the most of your translation investment.

  • Feel free to contact your translator when you have questions or need to double-check something. He will be more than happy to explain his choices—after all, that’s part of his job.

François Abraham - Certified Translator Communications Léon inc. Francine Gaulin - Rédactrice | Scénariste