How to get your translation agency speaking your language

Are your messages getting lost in translation? Does your content lose context in different languages? TranslateMedia’s Antonio Catanese explains how to brief a content translation project and get your message across in any language

By identifying your target audience and creating your content with them in mind, you have already started to develop your multilingual content strategy. However, the process needs to be structured appropriately and formalised in order to ensure that your tone of voice remains consistent when content is translated into multiple languages.

There are some tactics that will help you retain control, speed up the process and minimise costly and time-consuming revisions. These include providing the right kind of information and monitoring the translation process to ensure the highest levels of quality and efficiency.

1. Develop a translation brief

When dealing with both internal and outsourced translation service providers, as a rule of thumb - the more information you provide, the smoother the process and the more accurate the translation will be.

In order to make the information actionable, create a translation brief that describes your service and provides context on how your translated text will be used. After all, you wouldn’t commission the original content without supplying the writers with a creative brief.

Furthermore, specify who your target audience is (gender, age group, social group), how you want them to respond and the image you would like to project. In fact, you should go as far as spelling out the tone of voice you are hoping to achieve.

For several foreign languages, it is also necessary to indicate whether the translator should use the formal or informal way of addressing the reader. This is because in many languages, the language used in a formal and informal context differs drastically.

Finally, remember to specify the territories you are targeting. Although some countries share a common language, there might be significant differences in the way it is spoken or written. You can observe this phenomenon when comparing South American Spanish with European Spanish, or to a lesser extent in US and UK English.

2. Provide a glossary and include the relevant reference material

Apart from the way that you structure your sentences, tone of voice is also dictated by the terms you use. That’s why it’s so important that they remain consistent and true to your brand guidelines.

While a good translator will be perfectly capable of creating glossaries as they translate, creating a formal one in English will speed up the translation process substantially while allowing you to maintain greater control.

The importance of a glossary increases with the technicality of your field and text. Indicate which terms are important/recurrent for your organisation and the translators will be able to ensure that these are effectively translated.

It is also extremely useful to provide as many examples of your English material as you can and any translations you might already have in the target language. This will allow the translator to become familiar with your brand’s voice and lexicon, and avoid repetition.

3. Add in-country reviews to the process

While often overlooked, an in-country review can really make a difference when it comes to creating engaging multi-language content.

If your organisation has offices in the target territory, ask your local colleagues to review your translations. Are you communicating your tone of voice effectively? Or are you using any industry-specific or technical terminology correctly? What product benefits are getting lost in translation? While a good translation agency will use in-country revisers to check translations, your local colleagues may have a deeper knowledge of your product or service which will help identify any inaccuracies in the target text.

If possible, place your in-house reviewers directly in contact with the translation service provider to provide feedback. Any extra information you provide will help you get more value from your investment in professional translation.

4. Stagger the translation of content

Translation is an iterative process. If you have a lot of content to be translated, we recommend starting small and increasing the volumes once you’ve got efficient processes in place and high-quality output from your translators.

Start with your “cornerstone” content – your product pages or ‘about us’ sections, for instance – and then expand. This will give you time to implement a feedback system that will help your translation agency learn and understand your business from the inside out.

Translation can be a big job and one way your agency manages your projects is to feed them into a translation memory database. This database holds previously translated segments (such as sentences, paragraphs, headings, titles) and is built up and updated as more and more text is translated. This is a useful tool for translators as the software scans text and immediately alerts them when a certain segment of text has been previously translated.

This saves time for the translator as the only thing they need to do is to determine whether the translation fits the current context and brief. Using this software helps ensure consistency across all of your content and reduces time and costs in the long term.

Maintaining your tone of voice across translated content doesn’t need to be complicated. With organisation, the right information and a feedback loop in place, you could be well on your way to success in your target region.