In a global economy, professional translation services are being used to break down language barriers so that businesses and consumers can obtain marketing and sales materials as well as technical documentation in a familiar language. The process of adapting content for various local markets is called localization, in which translation is a key component but not the only one. We’ll consider translation and localization here as they apply to a wide variety of industries. We’ll also present some of the practical steps to choosing a suitable translation service provider for a particular industry or assignment.
Coming to Terms: What is the Difference Between Localization and Translation?
Localization is a general term for the process of adapting content from one location’s target audience to another. While the adaptation of a natural language (i.e., translation) is a key component, there are also additional changes required. Numerical and data formats may need to be converted, as do currency and measurement units. In addition, cultural differences need to be considered so that the language used in one place does not unintentionally rub another audience the wrong way or seem inappropriate.
The same holds true when translating across various industries. Words may mean one thing in a legal context and another thing entirely in a medical or industrial context. Translation services need to be fine-tuned, therefore to deliver the linguistic expertise that is appropriate for a particular industry or usage. Translation, in turn, can be subdivided into interpretation (for spoken rather than written words), transcription (converting from spoken words to written ones), and transcreation (a creative adaptation of content rather than a literal word-for-word rendering).
The processes of translation and localization are often applied to digital content such as websites and software applications. After translating and localizing content, the text strings for the various locations and languages are uploaded to a digital matrix, essentially a database in which each expression used in the digital content has a row, and each location has a column. Highly specialized translation management and localization software are usually used to prepare a site or app so that it can be internationalized efficiently, resulting in a globalized digital product that is accessible to audiences worldwide, each consuming it with the appropriate language and local conventions, formats, and units.
Specialized Translation Needs of Diverse Industries
No two industries use identical language, so organization in different verticals must seek out translation services which can handle the subtle distinctions and various conventions that are unique to individual industrial domains and market sectors. Let’s consider some of these differences among some of the important industries. Here are a few of the biggies:
The automotive industry is diverse. Content needs to be fine-tuned to correctly speak in the language of partners, distributors, dealers, and, ultimately, drivers. Marketing and sales collateral, service and operating manuals must be translated, often into ten or more languages. There’s an urgent demand to translate dash screens and the software driving them.
Healthcare practitioners have pressing needs for translation and interpretation in products, service delivery, medical and care documentation, and interactions between care providers and patients. From lab results to pharmaceutical instruction, from international conference calls to local briefings, multiple languages need to be supported with great care.
As schools apply distance learning technologies, the need for translation and language tools grows greater. Texts for teachers and students, online courses and curricula, must be prepared in diverse languages and formats. Administrators, too, must deliver reports in a variety of languages to meet legal and regulatory requirements.
Tech providers aiming for audiences and buyers across the globe require the translation of digital products and services to stay competitive and reach new markets. Many terms they use require specialized technical knowledge for marketing and sales literature as well as documentation. Providers must ensure consistency across online and printed formats.
Banking and Finance
Banks and financial institutions have exacting needs when it comes to language. Accuracy is essential to comply with regulations and to reach international audiences. Accounts and reports require continual updating across diverse languages. There is a continuous need for professional translators trained in the specific language of financial and fiduciary terms.
The law lives in words, so accurate translation is key. Each legal document that requires translating must be checked and rechecked for exactitude. Certified translators need to be trained and experienced in legal terminology. Cases stand or fall on exact language, so every practitioner must ensure linguists are well-trained, so translation errors don’t occur.
Governments worldwide are huge bureaucracies, producing vast quantities of paperwork. To produce documents in multiple languages, with high accuracy, there is a need for highly trained human translators skilled not just in various languages but also “bureaucratese”. Standardization is key, so translators must take care not to deviate from official protocols.
What Should You Look for in a Translation Company?
Translation is an industry largely performed remotely, so finding a suitable agency is just an online search away. Given the importance of specific industries, including your profession or domain, and the languages you need, in your queries. Expect agencies to respond with a price quote and timetable, or a request for additional information, within a business day.
Compile a shortlist of 3-5 candidates and interview them by videoconference, feeling the chemistry and evaluating out how each agency fields your questions and understands your industry. Ensure, too, that they have a robust “stable” of professional translators on call for the language pairs you require and with the requisite domain expertise. Check also that they guarantee their work and will correct without charge any errors found, even after delivery. Most will do so, although the guarantee period may vary from weeks to months.
What should you expect to pay?
According to Thumbtack.com, citing the American Translators Association, the average rate of a translator is $0.12 word, although this will vary according to language and domain.
Jobmonkey reports that the hourly rate of a US translator or interpreter can vary from $30 to $90/hour, depending on experience, language, and urgency. Most fall in the middle.
Some tips: Ask for a brief translation test. Most agencies will offer this gratis. Insist on an account manager knowledgeable in your industry. Resist the temptation to work with freelancers: the risks are just too high. Don’t use machine translation for public documents. Google Translate or Microsoft Translator are improving, but they still can’t equal a skilled human translator. You can’t afford to lose customers in translation.