How to Prepare Documents for Translation

Whether you are new to needing a translator or are dissatisfied with the translation work you have had up to now, you may need to think about the preparation you should do before submitting a document to the translator. You should not expect a translator to know exactly what you want from the translation. The more subjective the material you have to translate and the greater the volume, the more important it is to prepare the material beforehand. By doing so, it will avoid mistakes made by the translator through poor communication and reduce the time needed to complete the translation.

Here are some Tips to Help you Prepare Documents for Translation:

1. Make Sure you Specify your Target Audience

Obviously, you will have specified the language you want your material translated into, but it is useful to specify the geographical location as there may be nuances in the language of that area that should be taken into account when the translation is done. This doesn’t really apply to technical material as there should be less regional differences in something like a medical or scientific legal document. It does matter more for legal or marketing material that could be interpreted differently depending on the culture, regional vocabulary and dialect of the target audience. There are also possible differences in units, such as the use of metric measurements in most of the world, but the Imperial system is still current in North America, and parts of the Caribbean. 

2. Work Out when you want your Material Translated by

If you have a deadline for translated material to be returned back to you, work backwards and allow time for you to prepare the documents you want translating, plus the time needed by the translator and then add a bit more in case of problems that you may not have anticipated just for good measure. If you haven’t yet arranged a translator, you will need to ask for quotes well before the deadline and ask how long it takes for the translation to be completed. Of course, if your documents have been well prepared already, you will get a more accurate estimate back from the translator.

3. Decide on a suitable file format for the work you are Submitting

When you ask for quotes, find out what file formats are the preferred choice for translators. Most word document formats are fine but avoid pdfs as they may not be easy to convert into a form that the translator can work with. It’s not just the format you send to the translator, but also the format you want it returned in. At the same time, you should provide a style guide to help guide the translator. Not all style guides work between very different languages (think English to Mandarin or Japanese), so you need to ask what the preferred word processing format to be submitted to the translator should be.

4. Develop and use a glossary

A glossary, together with a style guide, is not always something that can be provided straight away if you are new to needing translation. They are most useful if you have multiple translators working on a big project, or multiple staff working on preparing material for translation and you expect that your need for translation in certain languages is going to be ongoing. A style guide will help to maintain consistency in the grammar, punctuation and vocabulary used throughout the material.

5. Proofread the material you send before it is submitted

All professional translators proofread their translated documents before returning them, sometimes twice, but it also helps the translator to accept documents that have already been proofread thoroughly beforehand. Spelling mistakes, poor grammar and typos shouldn’t have to be corrected by the translator and if the actual meaning of the text is hard to decipher or follow this will probably mean a lot of questions from the translator to make sure the message is understood.

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