Translation Styles: The Final Product

Translation Styles Contents

Welcome to the final article in our eight-part series on how to get the most out of your translation. This series of articles is intended for readers who need to get their message across clearly, in a foreign language. Specifically, it deals with issues related to Japanese to English and English to Japanese translation.
This table of contents will be updated with links as I publish each new article.

  1. How Important is Translation Quality, Anyway?
  2. Translation Sin 1: Automated Translation
  3. Translation Sin 2: Non-native Translation
  4. Translation Sin 3: Direct Translation
  5. Translation Necessity 1: Consultation
  6. Translation Necessity 2: Communication
  7. Translation Necessity 3: Trust
  8. The Final Product

Before we start, I regret to say that the McDonald’s corporation clearly neglected to read this series of articles. News from Minnesota, from the other day shows that they put up a few billboards in the Hmong language that were apparently translated by google, or at least someone incompetent. I’m sure that error ended up costing them several thousands of dollars in direct costs to replace the billboard, not to mention the embarrassment and bad press (ok, there’s no such thing as bad press, I know). So, thank you to McDonald’s for illustrating Translation Sin 1.

If you’re the type of person who has had the patience to read through all seven articles in this series so far, you’re probably not the type who needs to be told that the “quick and easy” solution of automated translation is guaranteed to fail. (You are also probably not a McDonald’s corporate employee in the Minnesota area). Hopefully, I have also been able to persuade you to stay away from non-native translators and to avoid handcuffing your translator with direct translation requirements. Remember, we’re working on a product that is going to represent you or your company in the public domain. McDonald’s has the brand name power to survive a few epic failures, but a small business may not.

As an aside, I attended a conference earlier this week with a breakout session on logo and advertisement design, given by a representative from an advertising company in Kyoto. The conference was primarily for Japanese employees who had to market to/ attract foreign customers (in particular, foreign students). The presenter talked exclusively about appealing to Japanese tradition and, when asked during the Q&A about how his company figures out how to appeal to international audiences, he laughed and replied that it was impossible to market to any culture or country but your own with any success. This guy had about 40 years experience in the marketing/ design world. So, you don’t have to take my word for it!

Successful Translation Steps Implemented

Avoiding the pitfalls is the easy and least time-consuming part of the process. (In fact, all you need to do is contact TranSenz, right?) The most challenging and time consuming part of your translation process is probably the consultation and communication steps that we talked about previously. The challenge isn’t necessarily unique to the translation business- beginning any new contractor relationship is a sort of courtship ritual as you get to know one another. Meeting face-to-face makes this process much easier for both you and your translator, so a local company is always a good choice. When meeting in person isn’t possible- there won’t always be a native translator in your area- skype or telephone conversations can work, too.

Once you’ve opened that communication channel with your translator, both sides need to take the time to keep the other in the loop. Unless you’ve been working with the same translator on similar projects for years, there are probably going to be questions about particular word usages or slogans. Ideally, your translator should capture your “voice” well enough to write the final product in the equivalent voice for your target audience. Even if the final product doesn’t look like a textbook language sample, hopefully you have built up enough trust in your translator to understand their approach, by this point.

The After-Translation: Edits, Changes, and Formatting

Once your translator delivers the “final” product, you should have some time to request changes. Maybe the source text changed while the translator is working (for example, if they were working on a draft so as to allow a simultaneous bilingual release). There may be a few natural errors or stylistic differences you want fixed. Or you could be working with a set format and the translated version doesn’t fit. Do not be afraid to ask the translator to make edits. Any professional can handle feedback. On the other hand, a complete absence of feedback, or saying “we’ll fix it here,” can be received as a statement that you don’t care. Even if there is nothing to change, feedback helps: it’s the wind-down of your communication and helps keep the relationship open for the next project.

Final Check and Credit

The American Translators Association recommends that you give your translator an opportunity to review the final product, as printed, before it goes to the press and that you credit your translator. Allowing the translator the chance to review, ensures that your printer did not make any errors. I have never seen a translated work that survived a trip to the printer or layout artist. Letters and spaces disappear at random, number and apostrophe formatting gets messed up, mistakes that the translator would never consider possible emerge when the printer doesn’t understand the language. A final translator review on your sample print will set any mistakes right.

Crediting your translator serves both parties. As a translator, I don’t want my name on a work unless I know it’s the best I can produce. So, crediting your translator is a passive-aggressive way to make sure that he or she gave complete attention to every detail. Of course, the translator is going to appreciate the advertising, too, and he or she is not going to forget the professional courtesy. Besides, it can’t hurt, right?

Translation Accomplished

If you’ve made it this far with me, congratulations and thank you. I hope you have taken away some successful tips for contracting out a business translation. TranSenz stands ready to assist on your bilingual business needs, be it website design, fliers, or signage. I don’t know when we’ll have another themed guide up, but please stay tuned to our blog and our facebook page for articles on translation, expat life in Japan, and raising a bilingual family. If you have any topics related to these that you’d like us to cover, please leave a comment below!

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