How to get a document translated as quickly as possible

How to get a document translated quickly

There are times, particularly around the holidays, when new clients come to us desperate and in a rush.  Each year, we earn new clients simply by being available around the holidays, when other language service providers (LSPs) are closed and we are available and ready.  Unfortunately, these clients come to us at the last minute when they learn that their current LSP is unable to meet their deadline and now have even less time left to meet their own deadlines.  This article is dedicated to maximizing the feasibility of successfully getting documents translated well and in a rush. This article covers four tips to help you get a document translated quickly:

  1. Provide everything the LSP needs up front
  2. Minimize the scope of work
  3. Recognize opportunities to shortcut a process while still meeting your needs
  4. Pay extra if you can

There are different strategies that can be employed in different situations.  Some of these work well in some scenarios, and some are not suggested in others.   

Provide everything the LSP needs up front

The minimum information an LSP needs are:

  • Source files to translate
  • Project scope, including target language, budget, deadline
  • Instructions such as what preferred file type to deliver or anything special or particular

This is the minimum information needed, but try to avoid providing only the minimal information.  If time is even more important, then planning is even more important, which includes having all the information necessary.  

Sometimes when clients know that the time to translate will be cut short, they decide to send incomplete drafts of the source files hoping the LSP can get a start on them, with an update to follow once it’s complete.  This is true, however, receiving drafts makes it nearly impossible to determine in advance what the final cost of the project will be prior to the launch of a project. While reasonable estimates can be made, in combination with rushing a project, costs become even more uncertain.

Many clients, particularly law firms, require translations of PDF files urgently.  PDF files, and other graphic files, are especially time-consuming to work with because they are not designed to be manipulated.  PDF files in particular come in two forms: “scanned” and “native”. Native PDFs are those created by the program that made the original source file, such as Microsoft Word or Adobe Indesign.  Scanned PDFs are those that usually resulted from a scan. Native PDFs, and other high-legibility PDFs can be converted to a rough editable equivalent of a DOCX or similar files. The outcome is messy, and fixable, but takes more time and money to handle. If layout is not important to you, mention this to the LSP so that they don’t spend time on it.

When first communicating with an LSP, include a phone call.  This gets all the questions out of the way immediately without having to wait and exchange emails when one of you is free to read emails. We know clients are busy with far more important things when deadlines are at risk of delay, but having an LSP diligently and efficiently working while you deal with more important problems is key to reducing further delays.  One call can address all issues, potentially reduce time, costs and mitigate risks in general.

Minimize the scope of work

Review the files and think if there is anything that doesn’t need to be translated either right now or never.  Translations is much simpler and the project is more likely to go well if you do the work of removing anything that you don’t need translated.  Every 1500 – 3000 words reduces the turnaround time by about a day.

One key circumstance in which minimizing scope is not possible is when the source files are not in the language of the client and thus clients can’t figure out what not to translate in the first place.  BURG Translations offers a document review service in which we can review all pages of all files searching for key terms or concepts that you are interested in. Alternatively, machine translation of all files in scope would provide a general gist of what the content is about.  After that, the client can select what pages to translate properly.

Recognize opportunities to shortcut a process while still meeting your needs

The standard translation process of the ISO 17100 is to use one translator followed by an editor.  This process yields the highest quality translation but is not always necessary to meet the client’s needs.  Moreover, it might not always be necessary immediately. For example, a professional translation (without editing) can be delivered and used immediately, and the final edited version can be delivered at a later date.  The need for the highest calibre translation varies by circumstances, so it’s hard to know when this shortcut can be used. A far more common shortcut that clients are requesting is to augment machine translation with a professional editor.  This is also acceptable, but only in particular circumstances – you have to be willing to accept a stilted version of the translation if you use this process.

An alternative shortcut is to split a file between two or three translators.  This essentially cuts the translation time (not the editing time) by 50% or 66%, respectively.  The trade-off is in the characteristics of quality – consistency of terminology and style. Just like there is more than one way of saying something in English, there is more than one way of saying the same thing in another language.  Using multiple translators will surely yield multiple terms and styles of writing within the same document. This can be mitigated by using one editor for both translators, but this is an imperfect solution. There are circumstances when this method is perfectly acceptable because these characteristics of quality might not be relevant, such as translation for internal communication or comprehension.  For example, if a lawyer has many document they need translated into their own language for the purpose of comprehension, using multiple translators may be just fine.

Pay extra if you can

When an LSP receives a request for a rush project, they invest more time up front confirming availability from team members.  Their success depends partly on whether or not the team will be compensated for working overtime and weekends. If there is no additional incentive in this initial outreach, the LSP is likely to return to the client informing them that they are unable to meet their deadline.  However, if the LSP knows in advance that there is additional budget to compensate the team, then they are more likely to return to the client having found a team available to work and meet the deadline. There are usually eight hours in a translator’s day (at different times depending on deadlines), so anything over this needs to be worth it.  The team will work overtime and weekends if you ask them to, and pay them for it. The LSP may notify you of this option in advance if you tell them that there is a particular deadline you need to make, but expect to be charged extra – unless you already have a healthy relationship with an LSP, then there is a chance the overtime charge will be waived.  

If you’d like to learn more about how BURG Translations helps you ensure high-quality translations, contact us

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