Technical translation highlights differences between EU countries

We have worked on numerous technical translations for agrochemical labels. It’s apparent that although EU countries are working towards the same legislation there are variances in how the chemicals are used within each country as evident from the translated labels we produced.

This has been highlighted in a recent project where a label for an agrochemical product was translated from 13 EU languages into English. The result was 13 different English labels for the same chemical product, each label highlighting the uses and requirements for each specific country.

Advantages of having all labels in one language is not only to highlight the differences between EU countries but also as a central controlled databImage2ase so that each chemical can be easily accessible when future legislative changes are required to a product.

Translation of agreements and contracts

If you’re signing an agreement or contract that’s been translated by your Client it would be in your best interest to have the translation proofread before signing. There have been occasions where the ‘odd’ sentence has been ‘added’ or ‘removed’ in the translated text. A level of due diligence should be taken to ensure that the translated version is a ‘true copy of the original text’ especially when stated in the contract that the translated version prevails.

New EU labelling regulations for food labels.

From December 2014, there are new EU labelling regulations for food labels. One of our clients, who are food   manufacturers, has already been proactive in requesting the necessary changes. These needed to be translated into 11 languages for their export countries.  Overall a straight forward process, we received one email from the client highlighting the changes required for the food labels. Within 48 hours we returned one email attaching 11 translated, proofread and certified documents which incorporated all the changes to meet the new legislation.

What you need to know about tendering in Bulgaria.

We recently translated a tender into Bulgarian for a UK company which was required for the Bulgarian Ministry. One of the important lessons we learnt is that the Bulgarian Ministry required all certificates of personnel involved in the project had to have their certificates etc ., certified by a Bulgarian translation company who were on the Ministry translators database.  The implications of this is that our client thought that they would have to have the complete tender translated in Bulgaria. This wasn’t necessary. We were able to work very closely with the client in the UK as well as work with a partner translation company in Bulgaria. The only consideration to be taken into account is the extra few days in getting the work certified and returned to the UK to be enclosed with the final tender documents.

Technical Translation Services

As the name suggests a Technical Translation Service concerns itself with the business of translating documents or articles that have a technical content – for example user manuals, guides of some kind or texts that convey scientific or technological information.

In order to be considered a competent technical translator not only must he/she have a thorough working knowledge of both the source language and the target language but also have a high level of subject knowledge of the area concerned as well as an understanding of writing conventions and terminology. Technical translation is often described as a mixture of art and science as it often involves the both the linguistic and aesthetic aspects of a language effectively combined.

One recurring feature of technical translation is that it is often formulaic and repetitive in nature – for example where the content has a legal or engineering dimension. As a consequence translators often use some kind of computer assisted translation software known collectively as ‘machine translators’ to help them in their task. They fall into 2 main categories – transfer based and data driven systems.

Transfer based systems are built by linguists and operate by following the grammar and other rules of the source and target language. They are very expensive to develop but form the majority of the commercially available machine translators.

Data driven machine translators work by collecting massive amounts of previously translated bits of information and using these in order to identify matches between the source language and the target language. This method is less expensive to develop but is also generally less accurate. Tests have been conducted on the effectiveness of these various systems and the conclusion seems to be that where machine assisted translation tools are coupled with a degree of human interaction the results are significantly better thus confirming the importance of the role of the technical translator even in this process.

Technical translation is not just about converting one language to another. Just as important are how the cultural features of a language are communicated. Different cultures can exhibit significant differences in the way specific concepts or ideas are communicated. For example a study into a commonly used document ‘The UN Declaration of Human Rights’ showed that when translated into 7 different languages each version although similar in content nevertheless revealed cultural nuances in each case – words such as ‘people’, ‘man’, ‘individual ‘had different levels of importance attached to them relative to other words in the target language and consequently delivered a subtly different message to the reader in each case. Spotting these differences and compensating for them is crucial to the work of any competent translator. Researchers have toyed with the idea of developing a universal writing style in order to tackle this issue but it has been shown to be fraught with problems and probably not realisable.

Others have proposed the use of English as the primary means of communicating amongst multi lingual cultures across the globe – making English the ‘Lingua Franca’ or common world language but this has implications for the field of technical translation. Those translators for whom English is their native tongue have been seen to often adopt a ‘unilateral’ stance when translating to and from English. In other words the English message becomes the main focus of the translation and biases begin to appear in the translation as a result. Another issue concerns the idea of ‘untranslatable’ words. In Chinese for example there are words which have no equivalent in many European languages and can therefore not be translated and even amongst European cultures the same phenomenon can be seen to exist – the German word ‘shadenfreude’ – which means the joy someone may feel at witnessing the misfortune of another, has no equivalent in the English language. When confronted with untranslatable words, one research study suggested that the translators simply avoided using them leading to potential inaccuracies and misinformation in the final text. This could have potentially serious repercussions when translating for example, documents which include a safety or warning component as part of their message.

Packaged marketing and multi-lingual translation service

TW Languages in partnership with Tetra Marketing provides a ‘packaged marketing and multi-lingual translation service’ for clients who are new to exporting. Although Tetra is our client we not only have a customer and supplier relationship but have formed a partnership.

Both companies provide different services, there’s no duplication of work and we have synergies in providing a service to organisations looking to develop their business overseas. TW Languages provides multi-lingual translations for technical documentation and Tetra Marketing works on strategic marketing.

In working as a partnership there is an increase in the level of skills and capabilities together with trust and understanding. This can be seen in a recent case study where we had a common aim to design, translate, print and distribute globally a corporate brochure from English into Chinese, Russian, French and Spanish, within a tight deadline of 5 days. Successfully achieved.

UKTI Language and Culture workshop – selecting a translation company

During Export week TW Languages presented a UKTI language and culture workshop, held at the East Lancashire International Trade Club. An excellent venue with highly professional and fantastic support staff. Highly recommended.

The aims of the UKTI workshop was based around exporting and looking at ‘how to select a translation company’.

I gave a brief overview of website Internationalisation with consideration for: localisation, SEOs, meta tags, language based website, country specific website, hosting, ISP, overseas search engines etc. As a translation company we only get involved with a small element of the website development i.e. translation unless we get asked to do more. We hope the client or the website designer has considered all the other issues as this is within their remit!

At the workshop we had some interesting discussion and analysis on different websites i.e. high development cost websites achieving a ROI. Other websites developed for different purposes hence low cost and no ROI. We were able to review a German website which TW Languages translated into English (we didn’t translate the other languages) www.global-sales-help.com. There are a few pointers to show that this originated as a German site.

Moving on to finding a translation company: recommendations, local chamber members, members of the ATC, yell.com, local search engines etc.

Selection can be quite complex as there are numerous players in the market and it’s difficult to differentiate between each: single translator, bi-lingual translator, multi-lingual translation company with or without in-house translators, mid-size to corporates, translation companies who also develop translation software etc. Translation companies who specialised in technical translations, certified translations etc.

If I’m selecting a supplier I want to know who they are, where they live, a telephone number! the ‘about us’ on the website is always important for me as I like to know about the company. UK registered, local company etc.

For a translation company the questions are: What documents do they translate? How do they translate – human or machine? Translation and proofreading or is proofreading at an extra cost? Quality measures? Who do they use to translate, native speakers in the target country? etc.

All of these questions should answered together with a clear and transparent quotation knowing exactly what the costs to do the translation include.

If you receive a quote and its unclear return to the supplier for explanation.

Trust – once you receive a translation, unless you know the language or get this checked there has to be complete trust in the work you’ve receive. If in doubt go back to the translation company.

Client Review

‘I’d like to take the opportunity to thank TW Languages. The quality of their service has been exceptional. With an understanding of working to tight deadlines with quality. I would recommend TW Languages to any company, large or small for their translation and interpretation needs ‘

Neil Lancaster – Global Sales Manager. ‘Deal With It’ Behavioural Safety. SOG Ltd

Top Tips for translations

1)     Where possible send the word file for translation and the pdf this could save time and money.
2)     Be specific as to which country / region the translation is required if not this can be a costly mistake.

3)     If the document is desk top published after translation ensure the translation is re-checked before publication.

4)     For multi-language translations use one multi-lingual translation company this will ensure each translated document has the same quality.

5)     Use a professional translation company where translated documents are for external use the risk to your image is too great.

6)     Tight deadlines to translate large documents can incur higher costs.

7)     Always ensure that the translator is a native speaker in the target language of the document otherwise the translation won’t read well.

8)     Having a document translated and proofread will have better results than just being translated.

9)     When writing text for translation avoid ‘play on words’, colloquial expressions etc., the meaning gets lost.

9)     It is more cost effective to translate a document than hire a professional interpreter.

10)  When a foreign client insists on writing in English and the meaning is unclear respond with   a bi-lingual email.

Top Tips for outsourcing translation projects

Multi-lingual translation projects aren’t only about high quality – they also need to be delivered on time and within budget. Here are TW Languages’ tips on how to make sure that your translation project is a success:

1)      Select a translation service provider that you can trust and in whom you have confidence. After all, they will be producing documents for your clients which you may be unable to read yourself!

2)      When sourcing a translation service, don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations or enquire about membership of a Trade Association, etc.

3)      Know exactly what you are paying for. Don’t assume that the translated documents will be ready for external communication; unless instructed otherwise, some translation companies provide translation only documents that haven’t been proofread and checked against the original text.

4)      Allow realistic time schedules. Your Translation Project Manager should be able to provide advice on a reasonable timescale for completion. However, for urgent work, they should also be able to take an intelligent approach to reduce the time needed to complete a multi-lingual project, without comprising on quality.

5)      Find out whether the final translation will be ready for publication. Is further formatting required? This is extremely important if you’re working to very tight time deadlines.

6)      Use a single translation service provider. It’s more efficient and cost effective to have one supplier working on a multi-lingual project than splitting the project between different translation providers.

7)    Make yourself available for any queries. The Translation Project Manager has the challenge of working with a team of translators and proofreaders in different time zones around the globe and may need a quick answer to avoid delaying the project.

8)      Finally, ensure that the project will be completed on time by arranging regular communication with the Translation Project Manager to check that everything is running to schedule and that your documents will be in the right language wherever and whenever they are needed.