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Translating Online Content: Things That Shouldn’t Happen in 2016

So we live in a world full of technology and I’m a fan of it. Jumping on the bandwagon of technology, the majority of content I translate today is online content. From websites to UI, mobile apps and other web content, I also mostly use online tech solutions provided by my clients. While those solutions are certainly a huge time saving for the translator, the client, and the project manager, allowing us to ask questions directly to the client through an interface among other great benefits, there are still some issues that translators face on a day-to-day basis. I’m going to concentrate on just one here.

 

When translators work together as a team or as a translator/proofreader pair, they discuss specific terms, they talk consistency, glossary entries and so on. And it has happened on several occasions and on many projects I’ve worked on, that the number one question asked by the translators is this: “Can we have access to the already translated UI?” Sometimes the UI has already been translated before we come in, by a previous translation agency or translator. That is perfectly fine. What is not fine in my opinion is not giving access to the translated interface for the translators. So some of you will say “Hey that’s what the glossary is for.” True, but the glossary is not always up to date, or there are 3 entries for the same term, or the glossary does not actually reflect what’s in the interface etc.

 

By now, you must be convinced that I’m dealing with clients who do not care about their terminology or the result of translations. Not at all. I believe that we need to educate clients on the importance of certain things, and getting access to an interface that is not public-facing, is extremely important. I understand giving several people access to a UI that is not public-facing could be a problem in terms of privacy. But we have all signed NDAs before even starting to work so it’s just a matter of giving the translators one set of test credentials.

 

For some, this could appear as a very trivial problem in the life of a technology translator, but I have seen this situation repeatedly and for at least 3 end clients, each of them pretty big companies in their respective markets. This means, the same questions asked by different language translators, and the same replies by the client. To me, this is a waste of time, for the project manager who has to inform the client there is a question, for the client who has to go and find that information, and for the translator who, in addition to waiting for an answer, is frustrated because he/she could have easily found that info alone in the first place.

 

I know most online platforms I use put the translations in context, directly on the webpage to be translated. That is a great benefit brought to us by technology and today I have trouble working with what I call traditional CAT tools (when I have to go back to the original file to see what I’m translating in context). However those platforms sometimes can’t give us the context when the user has to be logged in to see a particular interface. So what happens is the translator translates “blindly”, and has to guess about the context. I’m positive we make translation mistakes that way.

 

So that brings me back to my original point: this shouldn’t happen in the first place. When we give clients amazing platforms that allow them to index their content rapidly and assign translation strings to multiple translators at once, why then, stop the creative process and put obstacles before translators? Why not give them more context?

 

What’s worse than a bad translation? A translation that could have been extremely well done, and that is not, because of missing information. I am one of those translators in love with consistency, who can spend hours looking for that one term that hasn’t been translated according to the glossary, and I know a bunch of translators just like me. From the comments and the discussions we have, I know so many translators including myself who end up using the “least worse” translation because of no context and no idea “where that word goes”. And what is frustrating, is if somehow the client notices there is a mistake, or worse, an end user notices a mistake (something I have seen happen) and thinks translators are useless because the translation is awful.

 

I think every one would be really happy, that is the translator and the end client, if we were doing things differently. So let’s say, you have a huge website, with lots of content on it, and you decide to translate your FAQ, your help center or other support content. What would the ideal workflow look like?

 

First, translate the UI, that is before support articles. It sounds like common sense, but it’s not done every time. And for the UI, please, please give the translators access to the UI. Access could be an overview video of your platform, that way we can see better what the headers and menus look like, it could be a tree map of your interface (so we can get an idea of what is a title, a button etc), or the actual access to the full UI with a test account. When I wasn’t able to find the location of a particular segment, I have often watched numerous videos on the client’s website just so I could find what the UI looks like from a user standpoint.

 

So, big companies out there, planning to launch a large translation process any time soon, involving UI items, are you going to let your translators in, or not?[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]



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