As a localization project manager, we are no strangers to this question. The simple answer is no. Although we understand that time is precious and a quick turnaround is one of the main goals of a client, we do not recommend rushing localization projects. There are certain aspects a client should look at beyond simply translation, such as the project scope and process, quality assurance steps, productivity, and other determining factors.
– Disclaimer: the discussion of this blog is based on translations completed by professional and 100% human linguists utilizing CAT tools. Any form of machine translation does not apply to this.
An Overview of Translation Project Processes
We have always come across this question: I have a document that’s about 10,000 words, can you deliver it by the end of business today? There has always been a misconception or assumption that translation agencies can turn around any project (large or small) overnight. Depending on the scope of a project, there are processes and elements which determine the turnaround time, as what a translation agency does is more than merely translating words, there are other tasks involved.
Depending on the project type, such as website, document, audio/video, or software translation, and the subject matter, there are different requirements and processes before and after the translation phase. Preliminary engineering (before translation) and final engineering (after translation) efforts are always needed for all projects, to prepare the files for translation, as the translation teams don’t work directly in the native file format. The process of preliminary engineering, prepares the native client files in a format that is compatible for use with CAT (computer-assisted translation) tools, enabling the translator to utilize translation memory (TM) to ensure consistency and quality. You may refer to the below links for more references about translation steps for different translation projects:
- Document Translation Process
- Website Localization Process
- Software Localization Process
- Audio/Video Localization Process
Quality Assurance (QA) Steps
Apart from translation, there are QA steps that language teams perform after translation to ensure the translation is accurate and complete. Once the translation is finalized, it will go through final engineering, which includes importing the translations into the TM and preparing the files for the next phase, which may include desktop publishing or online QA for web and software projects. Once any of these steps are completed, the files go through QA completed by the linguist. They will ensure that all the translations are displayed completely and correctly in the final format. This is an important step that any legitimate translation agency will perform and an important differentiation between professional translation agencies and freelancers as freelancers may not be able to perform all the steps required.
For example, if you have menus that need translation into Arabic, French, and Simplified Chinese, after the language teams perform translation and the desktop publishing is done, the translation teams will review the translated versions of the menus, to spot corrupted characters, alignment issues, improper word breaks, missing lines, etc. If there are any errors, the linguist will report the error and the fix and these will be implemented. Before the project manager delivers the final products to the client, the team will perform another review to ensure all changes have been made.
All of these processes and steps are scheduled and coordinated by the project manager based on the productivity and efforts required.
Productivities and Efforts
Speaking of productivity, timelines are largely dependent on the productivity of the production team and of course the volume and requirements of the client. Take a website localization project for example, the turnaround time is mainly based on the following calculations:
- The word count of the material to be translated will determine the time needed for the translation team to complete as well as the QA hours required Online QA. This can vary based on the type of content, marketing content which requires transcreation and technical content can have a lower productivity rate based on the work involved.
- The file type and workflow will determine the time and effort needed by the Engineering team to import/export content, prepare files for translation, etc. If an automated workflow is pre-defined, the turnaround time can be significantly shortened and the efficiency of the project is improved by reducing manual import and export of files thus reducing the risk of mistakes associated with manual import/exports.
GPI is experienced with automated solutions for website localization by creating customized connectors for different content management systems. You may see more details here: GPI’s Translation Connectors Library
Apart from the above, there are other factors that can affect a project’s turnaround time. If the client is translating a highly technical document, e.g., an operational manual with detailed figures, or a medical report with complicated formulas, it is recommended not to rush the translation, as it might result in errors and thus risk the quality of the translation. Also, if you are translating an industry-specific website, it is also recommended to allow the team time to research the subject matter, ask questions, and create a specific glossary for the content, before proceeding with the translation.
Therefore, what can a client expect or do when requesting a translation project to help accelerate the process?
- Communicate clear project requirements with your project manager, and provide finalized files) and reference materials if needed.
- Avoid submitting revisions to content during the translation process. Not only will this drive up costs, it will increase production time. It is best to wait to send the final versions of the content.
- If you have translations in your planner or pipeline, it is recommended to communicate your editorial calendar with your project manager so they can allocate resources and discuss schedules in preparation for your projects. One client had planned press releases that they knew in advance they would need in a specific timeframe. They contacted us about when the content would be ready and when it would be needed. We organized the translation team and had them ready for the content and we were able to meet their aggressive deadline.
To sum up, a translation project is not simply a translation task, it is a series of tasks that need to be completed according to the industry’s best practices which includes quality assurance before delivery of the final product. The turnaround time of a project is determined by its volume, subject matter, and the project type. Therefore, it is through the communication and collaboration of the client and project management team to set clear project scopes, priorities, and advance notices when feasible in order to plan a successful and efficient translation project.