In the global world, the goal of translation is to accurately and appropriately communicate your "message" into the local language. This helps keep your business expectations the same as those you have when dealing with the native-language speaking population. But how do you find the foreign-language expert? What should you expect? What questions should you ask? And what should you be prepared to answer?
You get what you pay for. You may try to circumvent the cost of professional translation by going cheap – maybe using a free translation website or the local high school Portuguese teacher. Believe me: neither is a good option. Translation is a craft requiring fluency in two languages, a solid subject matter knowledge, writing and grammatical skills, education, experience, the right tools and, yes, some talent. The best translators are paid accordingly, which means there are no "bargain" translations.
Be aware that machine text translations provide a general idea of subject matter but often produce improper sentence structure and incorrect context. For specialized work, use professional translators with relevant academic knowledge and industry-specific experience. After all, in the sentence: "The astronauts took a picture of Pittsburgh on the way to the moon", a computer will never know who went to the moon, the astronauts or Pittsburgh.
Words count – a great deal. Many factors are considered in the price of a translation project, but the number one item is the number of words to translate. The reason is simple: more words, more time to translate them. So, do what you can to be succinct. Edit your copy prior to translation, create modules of text that can be translated once and stored for re-use, and try not to be redundant.
Some content is harder to translate than others. Period. A standard business letter is one thing; the technical manual for your million-dollar piece of machinery is another animal altogether. Parts lists and copy for display messages in control systems are particularly challenging. (What exactly is a "drum mounting bolt", or "Unlocked Door Anti Lock Out"?). Advertising and creative text require reflection and extensive editing because what works in some cultures does not work at all in others. Also, the translation of 1000 words in 20 PowerPoint slides (or in a non-editable PDF file) is not the same – because it will not take the same time – than to translate the same 1000 palavras in a Word file. Expect to pay more for this type of translations.
Alterations and additions incur revision costs. It's always better to wait until your document is final before you start on the translation. And once the content has been translated and stored in translation memory, even simple changes like changing your copy from "dealer" to "distributor" within a previously-translated sentence mean it is no longer an exact match, and will be presented for translation revision: expect to pay for this service!
Turnaround time depends on the technical difficulty, the length of the document, and the language/dialect required. Always build in enough time for the completion of this part of your documentation process. The best translators are always in high demand, so they're not always available to start on your new project right away.
The more information, the better. It won’t cost any more to send reference materials along with the text to be translated, and it will help your translator do a better job. Like copies of existing translations, glossaries, lists of industry terms, product catalogs, drawings – anything that will help clarify what’s being translated. Answer your translator's questions promptly when they arise. The more information you provide, the better the (your) translation will be.
OK, once again: proof the source document for grammatical errors, sentence structure and typos before translating (don't forget to check number and units of measurement). You will avoid major delays by having your source text finalized before the translation process begins.
Be sure the software of your original documents is compatible with your translator's capabilities. PDF or Excel documents are excellent for on screen viewing or print, but totaly inedequate to translate. Whenever possible, provide your translator with DOC/RTF documents.
Create a multilingual glossary of crucial text and terms to assure consistency. Your proprietary terminology (and acronyms...) may not always be evident to someone not working within your company or sector. And, please, do not send me a glossary with the translation of "bolt", "screw" and the like... You'd be surprised to know how many times some people do...
Have your translated documents reviewed by a native speaker of the target language. Always. And don't ask your secretary to review the translation of a text that took 3 engineers and 2 lawyers to write and 2 professional translators to translate...
And, when the time comes to pay your translator, you must have a very simple (and strict rule): do it on time! Period! Didn't you like to have your translation delivered also on time?
Text adaptation from original copy in sh3.com and iterotext.com and other sources.