Doing a casual text translation for personal use is easy: just copy/paste the text into a free translation tool and choose your destination language. Whether your translation is completely accurate doesn’t matter.
On the other hand, if you’re translating content in a business setting – and lots of it – you’ll need a more sophisticated, and systematic, translation workflow that helps you produce quality translations for your customers.
In this respect, many businesses that translate large amounts of content will follow a traditional translation workflow. It’s a tried-and-tested approach, but it has some shortcomings that affect the efficiency of your translation efforts.
In this article, we’ll discuss the steps involved in using a traditional translation workflow, its limitations, and how you can improve and automate it for your business’s translation needs.
What is a translation workflow?
A translation workflow is a series of steps that covers how content is translated, from start to finish. These steps range from the preparation and review of the content to be translated, to the translation work itself, and finally to the delivery of the completed translation.
Depending on how comprehensive your translation efforts are and how many people are involved in the process, your translation workflow may encompass as few as just two steps (namely translation and publication) or as many as six or more.
The time needed to complete a translation may also vary. For example, if you’ve brought in an external translator who is also involved in other projects, they may be slower in submitting your translation compared to an in-house team member whose job solely involves translating content.
As a whole, more extensive translation workflows tend to result in higher-quality translations. However, there are methods of improving the quality of a translation while spending less time and effort on translation work. We’ll discuss one such method later on.
But for now, let’s look at a standard, traditional translation workflow you can adapt for your business if you’re new to the process.
What are the steps in a traditional translation workflow?
A traditional translation workflow can be broken down into five distinct stages:
- Sending files for translation
- Receiving files from translation
Each stage involves different processes, and what these are will vary based on the type of content you are translating, the purpose of your translation, and your business requirements. That said, you can expect to come across some of the following processes:
Before sending your content for translation, you’d need to get them ready to be translated. This can involve:
- Defining the scope of your translation requirements. In particular, identify the content that you would like translated – be it individual blog posts, landing page copy, contact forms, or most likely, your entire website.
- Deciding the target languages for your translation efforts. If you’re adapting your content for a different market, check which languages they speak (and that you should hence translate your content into).
- Preparing a style guide for your editorial and translation teams. This document informs them of your brand’s tone of voice, text formatting practices, and more, so they can meet such requirements while carrying out their work.
- Putting together a glossary of preferred translations for specific terms. Stating how certain terms should always be translated (or not translated) helps maintain translation and localization consistency for these terms across the board.
The next step in the translation management process is handled by the translator or translation agency engaged to carry out the translation work.
Upon receiving the source text to be translated, the project manager – who could be the translator themselves if you’ve engaged a one-person business – will review the text to make sure it’s within their scope of subject-matter expertise. (If it isn’t, they’ll inform you so you can start looking for another translator and minimize delay to the translation process.)
The translation agency will also verify that all required materials, such as your brand’s style guide and glossary, have been received. If you don’t already have such documents prepared, the agency could help you put them together (for an extra fee). The agency may also be able to proceed with the translation work even without these documents. However, there may be some reduction in the resulting translation’s quality.
Once the translation agency has everything they need to translate your document, they’ll share their proposal for the translation project. This proposal typically includes their fee and timelines for delivering the translation.
Once you’ve agreed to the proposal, the translation work will begin!
The translator assigned to your translation project will complete a translation of the content from the source language to the target language(s). From here on until you receive the translated document, there’s generally no action to be taken on your part – simply carry on with your business as usual. That said, make yourself available to answer any questions the translator may have while translating your document.
If required, the translation agency may also undertake a back translation. In other words, a second translator will translate the translated material back to the source language. Doing so helps check whether the first translator has translated your document accurately, or whether some things have gotten lost in translation.
Carrying out a back translation will also cause the agency’s translation fee to go up. You may therefore want to do a back translation only when you’re translating sensitive material and there is no room for error. (Legal documents are a good example of such material.)
Editing and proofreading
After your document has been translated, it will be edited and proofread. Depending on the translation project budget, the editing and proofreading work may be undertaken by the same person or by separate parties.
The editor will do an in-depth review of the translated text to check that it has been translated:
- Accurately, in that the translated document has the same meaning as the original document,
- Consistently, where terms that appear more than once in the document have been translated in the same manner, and
- Following your style guide, so that the translation evokes your brand’s tone of voice and personality.
The editor will also confirm that the translated text has been effectively localized for its target audience.
With the editing done, the proofreader takes over to identify and fix any superficial writing mechanic errors found in the document. These can include spelling, grammar, punctuation, and formatting issues.
Proofreading is generally the last stage of the translation process undertaken before the translated text is sent back to you for review.
Once you approve the translated text, the translation company will help format it to your desired specifications. This format may be the same as that for your original content or some other agreed-upon format.
For example, perhaps you’ve had your document translated from a language written from left to right (such as English) to one written from right to left (such as Arabic or Hebrew). In this case, the translation company will help adjust its translation to right-to-left format.
On the other hand, if you hadn’t provided any formatting instructions, the translation company may deliver the translated content in a plain-text file format.
Publication of the translated content
When you’ve received the translated and formatted text from the translation company and signed off on the work, you can put the text to use!
However, be careful not to modify the translation when doing so, as that could change its meaning.
For example, if you intend to post a summary of a translated article on social media, it may be worth getting a fresh translation of that summary. Or else, if you simply string together sentences from different parts of your translated article, you might end up with a poorly translated summary that fails to do justice to the original text (translated or otherwise).
Issues with a traditional translation workflow
While the traditional translation workflow can serve businesses well, it may not always be the best document translation procedure. That’s because the traditional translation workflow can be:
- Expensive. Hiring professional translation services can be rather costly. Their pricing varies based on factors such as experience levels, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $0.08 to $0.25 per word to engage a professional translator. The cost also only goes up if you need to translate your content into multiple different languages.
- Time-consuming. As we’ve seen above, there are quite a few steps in a traditional translation workflow. Each step will take time to complete, especially if your translation project is large. Back-and-forth communication between you and the translation agency will also lengthen the project timelines.
- Not scalable. Since you’re having professional translators translate your content manually, you’ll need to rope in more of them if you want to scale up your translated content production efforts. You’ll find increasing your translation capacity in this manner challenging if you have limited time and budget for doing so.
- Difficult to keep track of if you have multiple projects. From a workflow management perspective, juggling various translation projects at once can strain your resources. Just imagine all the tasks you’ll need to handle for a single translation project, then multiply these by the number of projects you plan on undertaking. Are you equipped to manage them all?
One potential outcome of applying the traditional translation management workflow to all your translation efforts is increased costs as you have to engage more translators for your projects. You may also end up wasting time as you struggle to liaise with your translators promptly.
Finally, if you end up providing poor instructions in your bid to keep all projects on track, the quality of the translations you receive could suffer.
How can you improve your translation workflow?
To overcome the drawbacks of the traditional translation workflow, we recommend using a translation tool that automates and reduces the number of manual tasks involved in the translation process.
For example, if you’re translating web page content, website translation solution Weglot uses machine translation to instantly translate large volumes of text with a high degree of accuracy. After that, use our post-editing tools to edit the translations to meet your brand’s quality standards. Weglot also helps you streamline your website translation workflow in a number of ways:
- Automatic content detection and translation: Once you configure Weglot for your website, it automatically detects and translates all your website content into your specified language(s). This includes any new content you add to your website later, so you don’t have to manually set up new translation workflows each time.
- Effortless collaboration with internal and external parties: While Weglot’s proprietary combination of machine translation solutions helps provide high-quality translations, you may want to fine-tune these further. In this case, you can easily invite internal team members and external translation agencies to your Weglot translation project to review your selected translations. You can also order professional translations for certain portions of text from the Weglot Dashboard, and they’ll directly appear in your project when ready.
- Search engine optimization (SEO) of your translations. If you’re translating website content, your translation workflow may contain the extra step of making your translations search-friendly. Weglot can reduce your workload here by automatically translating your web pages’ metadata, setting up subdirectories or subdomains for storing your translated web pages, and adding the appropriate hreflang tags to them.
Learn more about how Weglot can help improve a website translation project’s workflow here.
Streamline your translation workflow with Weglot
A translation workflow necessarily requires a certain level of rigor to produce quality translations. But given its human-intensive processes, a traditional translation workflow can reduce the cost-effectiveness, time efficiency, and scalability of a business’s translation efforts. Adopting a completely traditional approach may therefore not be the best way forward for translating large amounts of text.
If you’re undertaking a website translation project, consider tapping Weglot’s automatic translation capabilities to speed up the translation work. The high quality of its translations also means you can have professional translators concentrate on refining the translations for just key sections of text. As a result, you won’t have to engage them to translate your whole website but can reap cost savings for your business instead.
Last but not least, Weglot displays the finalized translations on separate language versions of your web pages that have been optimized for higher search rankings.
Experience how Weglot can streamline your website translation workflow by signing up for a free 10-day trial here.