Reading time: 5.5 min
Translation is a very precise job. For a translator to prepare the best translation possible, it is not enough to know the source and target languages well, or to be knowledgeable about the topic. The translator needs as much information as possible about the source text, how it was created, the purpose for which the translation will be used. In short, a translator needs comprehensive context.
You might think that providing all this information when placing the order is too time consuming. Honestly, it can be unless you have a process in place. We are here to make it easier for you! We have prepared a checklist that will help you include all the information a translator might need to prepare the best translation possible. In this scenario, ‘the best’ refers to a translated text that is terminologically beyond reproach and fit for its intended purpose.
The essential information, without which a medical translation (or any translation, for that matter) simply cannot be prepared, includes:
Source document(s) to be translated
It goes without saying that having the text to be translated is crucial for preparing the translation, right? 😉 Please send us the final version. If you make changes to the text once it has already been sent into translation, it will slow the process down and increase potential for misunderstanding.
While the source language is relatively easy to figure out from the source text itself, your LSP needs to know the language into which you would like to have the source text translated. While this is not vital information for freelancers working in a single language combination, it absolutely is necessary for translation agencies and freelancers working with multiple languages.
This is the date by which you as the client need the translation. Knowing the deadline enables the LSP to choose the appropriate linguists available to do the job by the agreed date. Most translation agencies work with multiple translators in a given language combination and field. Knowing the deadline helps them prioritise projects and allocate them to the right team.
However, not all deadlines are feasible for a variety of reasons, e.g. the scope of texts might be too big, the translation process more complex than it seems at first glance, the translation teams unavailable… Often you may have two deadlines in mind – an ideal one (which gives you plenty of time to edit the translation thoroughly and prepare for the final purpose) and the final one (which is non-negotiable and gives you just enough time to carry out the essential tasks, without any leeway whatsoever). In cases like these, provide both the ideal and the final deadline. That way, the LSP will know exactly how much manoeuvring space you have, which element of the iron triangle to ‘sacrifice’, and consequently what measures to take to ensure your translations are ready in time.
Seemingly optional, but actually crucial information
Based on the documents, the language combination, and the deadline, the LSP can prepare a translation. It might not be a good one, though. Namely, if you do not have a long-standing relationship with the LSP, have not exchanged information on requirements, expectations, and preferences, or you are ordering the translation of a new type of a text for the first time, chances are it will fail to meet your expectations or fulfil your needs. The translator will only be able to assume what you need – they won’t know for sure.
To prevent this guessing game and equip the translator with the information they need to produce a spot-on translation, we strongly advise you to provide the following details. They will definitely improve the end translation.
Reference documents include company style guides, internal glossaries, old approved translations of similar documents and any other media that might help nest the text in a wider domain context. It is also advisable to describe your preferences regarding terminology. This is especially useful when you know there are several suitable terms for a specific concept and you prefer one of them, or if you suspect the terminology is very niche or specific. All of this helps the translator to get your text right.
Have you ever asked a translator or a friend who is good at languages what the word for something is in a foreign language? In return, the friend/translator likely asked you for the entire sentence in which the word appears. Context is everything for a translator: it ensures they choose the right term, style, or sentence structure. Context also means knowing as much as possible about the domain, the target audience, and the purpose of the translation.
- Target reader
Who is the text is addressed to? This tells us how it needs to be structured to achieve the best effect. Is your text aimed at patients or healthcare professionals? That is often obvious, but not always. The style and terminology the translator will use depend greatly on the target reader. Their age, education, profession, social status, level of digital savviness, political convictions, values, way of life, etc. all affect how they read and receive information. These factors that may influence the translation in different ways, which is why your LSP needs to know about them.
- Document purpose, intended use, final format
Will the text be published digitally or printed? What is the size of the printed document and are there any space restrictions? Is the source text a transcription of a video and will the translation be turned into subtitles? Is this text for an application user interface? Will the fields in which the text appears be expandable to accommodate for the possible increase in the number of characters? Is the purpose of the documents to inform, convince, or prohibit? Will it be distributed as an information leaflet, sent as a PDF file in marketing emails, appear as a banner on a website, or as a pop-up window? Was this Word document text copied from an Adobe Illustrator file and will it be manipulated by a graphic designer after translation? Does the translated PowerPoint deck have to be ready for use as is? These are examples of questions that help provide key additional information on the document purpose, intended use, and final format of the translated text, all of which may affect the end translation.
To recap, what information should the LSP receive with your request for translation?
- Final version of the source text
- Language combination
- Reference materials (style guide, glossaries, old approved translations, websites, videos, etc.)
- Target reader
- Final format
- Purpose/intended use of the translation
Providing all this information will ensure the LSP does not have to guess your requirements, has everything they need to organise your translation process, and can simply get cracking with providing you the best translation possible.
Based on your experience, would any other information help your LSP provide an even better translation? What other contextual information do you provide to get the translation you want? Let us know in the comments below! Now that you know how to compile a perfect translation brief, would you like to order a medical translation? Send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will roll up our sleeves!