How to write a good guideline for linguists?
The success of a translation project depends on not only translators (or translation agencies) but also clients. There are many possible mistakes made during the translation process including typing mistakes, inaccurate word choices, etc. But sometimes, it can go wrong before the translators even start their jobs. It lies in the preparation step from the work giver.
Many companies overlook the importance of a guideline for translators. Some prepare foggy instruction while many don’t prepare anything at all. A guideline is somewhat like a compass that helps translators perform the tasks in the right direction. It’s an unskippable step in the translation process if you want a high-quality translation without wasting too much time.
In today’s post, we will discuss the crucial role of a clear guideline and how to make a good guideline for your linguists.
Table of Contents
Why a clear guideline for linguists is important?
Save time for both sides
It’s always great for two sides to understand exactly the other’s expectation and ability. And a guideline will have you achieve this mutual understanding. A good translation guideline from your company can keep translators on the right track throughout the translation process. Based on the clear instruction you sent, translators have a vivid vision of what outcome they need to achieve and what they should do to meet that expected result.
A guideline usually includes a list of terminology which you want the translators to use throughout the translations to guarantee accuracy. There’s a risk when letting translators search and choose the suitable words themselves. In many cases, your company might find these words or terms inappropriate to use on the documents and ask translators to change the words. This process of sending back and forth files to correct takes a great deal of time. Instead, you should provide translators with a list of glossaries. Translators will use the resources you give, saving time for both them and your company.
Increase the translation quality
As mentioned above, a list of glossaries or style guide assists translators to remain the consistency of word choices, writing tones and voices throughout the translations, thus, improve the general quality of the whole documents.
What should you include in the guidelines?
1. Your expected outcome
The first thing you should mention in the guideline is your expectation for the translations. Do you need an error-free and ready-to-publish document or you just need a quick translation to get the general idea of the document? Whether what your expected outcome is, you should state it at the beginning of the guideline to avoid translators from missing this essential information.
2. Style Guide
A common style guide should cover:
- Punctuation and spelling (e.g. comma after and or not, British English spelling or American English spelling, etc.);
- Date and time formats (e.g. dd/mm/yyyy or mm/dd/yyyy or yyyy/mm/dd);
- Numbers, percentage, and currency (e.g. metric system or imperial system);
- Acronyms and abbreviations;
- User interface (e.g. monolingual source, monolingual target or bilingual);
- Writing tone and styles.
3. Terminology, Glossary and Do-not-translate List:
A list of frequently used terms and how to translate them is of great importance to keep your company’s translations consistent and accurate throughout the whole project. To achieve this, your company can actively provide the translators with a glossary of how you want these terms to be translated. In some cases, translators will propose the translations of the terms to your company. Once approved, they will use this list for the translation process.
What’s more, listing words that shouldn’t be translated also comes highly recommended. Do-not-translate words can be product names, people names, technology, address, or website.
Since the documents you publish are likely to become the voice of your brand, achieving a consistent tone and writing style is a must. Reading references or examples of previous documents or existing translations gives your translators a clear view of what languages they should use to fit your company’s voice.
5. Other requirements
The use of technologies – Most freelance translators and translation agencies make use of CAT Tools nowadays to reduce turn-over time and increase the overall translation quality. If you want to use CAT Tools for your project, which one do you prefer translators use? Trados, MemoQ, Memsource, or other names? Mention the tool you want will have you manage and check the translations more effectively. It is also ideal that all your translation management technologies (content management system (CMS), API, CAT environment, etc.) are connected all together to guarantee a smooth workflow and decrease the time for transferring individual files between you and your translation partners.
Design and layouts – Mentioning the file types and layouts of the final files are important information you should not miss when writing a translation instruction. You can find out what to include in the style guide by answering the following questions: Do you want your files in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or PDF format? Do you have any special requirements on the font, word size, indent, spacing, etc.?