FAUST RULE 1: Preparation is the keyMarch 15th, 2021 by Christian Faust - Posted in English
The first and most important Faust rule (of thumb) is so obvious that it needs no explanation. Everyone knows that ‘you get out, what you put in’. Everyone should understand that quality results depend largely on input. Yet, many often underestimate the importance of this old adage. So let’s dive in!
Quality of Effort = Quality of Results
What no one wants to happen is the final result not meeting expectations in one respect or another. As a translation company, we would have to pay for rework and overtime, or in some cases the costs are passed on to the customer. It happens!
Over the years at FaustTranslations, we have a phrase for any inadequate observance of this Faust rule: “Shit in, shit out!”. Often accompanied by a laugh, sometimes by more swear words and always by a renewed focus on what’s most important: success of the project!
As we’ve mentioned before, the interesting aspect of translation management is that no two translation projects are identical. Even when it may seem that way at first glance, even if the customer hasn’t made any special requests. There are always unique features, special requirements. As if that weren’t enough, often they come to light when you least expect it.
Faust rule 1: Preparation is Key
Project managers need to develop the habit of seeing what’s not easily noticeable and asking for the information the client may not have provided. Sometimes, that clients may not be aware of or that’s so obvious to them that they don’t even think to mention! It’s not outside the realms of normal for us to receive translation requests that don’t even specify the desired target language: “Please translate the attached text! We’ll get right on that!
As a rule, each of our clients are specially assigned to an individual project manager, who will come to know the company’s requirements in great detail, and already have most crucial information at their disposal. The real intricacies in such translations are mostly unique, hidden and must be adeptly unearthed by the project manager.
File Formats and Conversions
The first steps in translation management involves rigorously checking source files, asking necessary questions:
- Is it absolutely clear what is to be translated?
- Are all texts editable?
- Is the context clear?
- Does the source text contain several languages or already translated parts?
- Are there text length restrictions?
- Is embedded data available? How should they be treated?
- Should the user interface be translated or will it remain in the source language?
- Does the text appear neatly segmented and complete in the translation program?
- Might there be difficulties with the conversion? (PDF, IDML, HTML, …)
- The list goes on…
The main task at this point is to provide each translator with a work file that leaves no questions unanswered, setting the project on the path to success from the start.
Quality of the Source Text
Of course, the quality of the source text also plays a role. Difficulties for translators can arise from foreign (even company-specific) technical terminology, grammatically incorrect or incomplete sentences, colloquial phrases or texts containing jokes, irony and even puns.
Context: You Had to be There!
Sometimes, the context of the source text can be fundamentally opposed to straight forward translation. Here it’s not so much a matter of the translator not understanding a subject, but rather the translation can fail due to the contextual incompatibilities. For example, if the source text is based on a play on words and shows a suitable photo to illustrate this, there are almost certainly translation problems that will need to be considered at an early stage. This is where transcreation really shines.
Consistent terminology across all of a company’s translations is one of the biggest challenges in translation management. We’ve actually dedicated an entire Faust rule to this (see Faust rule 2 next week!).
It should be noted that ensuring uniform and consistent terminology is one of the most important tasks of any project manager. The correct terminology must be used from the very beginning.
To this end, project managers should always request any existing glossaries from the customer and inquire about a contact person to clarify possible queries promptly. The continued maintenance of a company’s terminology index and consistent use of the appropriate technical terms is again a matter of course for any quality translation agency.
Formatting and Layout
The text of the translations is usually longer or shorter than the source text, rarely exactly the same. While a shorter text length usually doesn’t cause any problems, it can be quite different when texts become much longer in a foreign language.
If the layout of the source document was designed in such a way that not much “air” is left, the target document will have considerable difficulties with pagination or text fields that are too small.
Paragraph and line breaks within sentences or even display messages with character limits that have been completely exhausted can be problematic. Translators can be left with zero room to manoeuvre and may have to opt for awkward solutions.
Many files (mostly PDF formats) should be initially prepared so that the translation result “fits” without any necessary rework. This is especially important when translating into multiple languages. Any possible post-processing effort would have to be multiplied by the number of languages. Pre-planning is key!
Clients are often unaware that subsequent or late changes to the source text in the middle of an ongoing translation project can actually involve a great deal of effort for translators to accommodate. Due to the complexity of translating from one language and cultural framing to another, even seemingly minor changes in one language can have a knock on effect on other sections in order to maintain the same seamless experience for target readers as in the original.
Project managers should always obtain the definitive version of documents from the customer before the project is released for processing – which is in the customer’s best interest anyway. We all want to avoid the unexpected. Not to mention, higher costs!
Purpose of the Translation
The purpose for which the translation is to be used is usually known to the client, but not necessarily by the project manager (or translators). Some customers often simply ask for “a translation” without offering the context in which they plan to use it.
A translation for purely informational purposes can be produced much faster and at much lower cost than a text that requires marketing considerations and extensive language and cultural adaptations for the target market. Similarly, a press release is always better proofread ten times too many than once too little.
When it comes to legal contracts, company balance sheets, package inserts etc it’s imperative to only use the appropriate specialist translators. For strictly confidential documents, other precautions apply. While it may seem unnecessary, a concrete indication of the intended use can save time and money while allowing for a translation that’s best suited for the final usage.
Geography and Target Group
Many companies operate internationally in numerous markets and with different target groups: internal departments, associated companies, end users (B2C), business customers (B2B), suppliers, partners and investors, consulting firms, governmental bodies and authorities, etc. Naturally, each audience needs to be addressed in a different way.
Not only is tone important, but so too is the geographical region. It’s important to understand the communication expectations of each language audience. What makes sense and is polite in English, must be similarly considered in Spanish, Portuguese, French, Dutch (Netherlands / Belgium), German (Germany / Austria / Switzerland / Luxembourg / East Belgium) and Arabic (Morocco / Egypt / Saudi Arabia), etc!
Reference material is often overlooked, but can be an essential tool in ensuring brand consistency across mediums and through different translation projects. Important considerations when preparing any translation: ‘Is reference material available? Are there websites, existing translations, additional documentation, maybe even material from competitors that can or should be considered? The more information the translator has, the better the results will be.
FAUST RULE 1: “You should prepare your project perfectly”, is anything but a banal request. It’s intended to remind even the most experienced project managers to look over everything extremely carefully, ask precise questions and follow the course of the project through to completion. It is the key to success that can be implemented even before the first word has been translated.
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