RFP Planning: Do’s and Don’ts for Test Translations
Your company’s corporate language is an expression of its identity, which is why it’s important to make sure it remains consistent as you expand into new markets. However, one stumbling block you‘re sure to face is finding a software localization partner who will ensure that your carefully crafted corporate image is communicated coherently across the globe.
Test translations will give you an initial impression of the level of quality a vendor delivers. But be careful: If you don’t carry out sufficient planning measures for this test process, then you won’t get a truly informative insight into how the vendor works. In the worst case scenario, you might even end up with the wrong vendor. Don’t just rely on your gut instinct – instead, consult the tips below, which will offer you a systematic approach to handling your next RFP.
Keep things straightforward
Whether it’s UI, software documentation, or legal texts – make sure that you select the text types most relevant to your company when commissioning test translations. Languages for which you have trusted, experienced reviewers should be your primary focus. They should not only be native speakers of the target language, but also be fluent in the source language of your texts.
A well thought out original text = a well thought out translation
The text template for your test translation should include content that your localization team typically sends for translation on a day-to-day basis. Small errors and ambiguities should be intentionally left in the text, as this will provide you with valuable insights into how translation problems are handled by the vendor. Does the vendor send queries regarding complex passages of the text? Are errors in the original reproduced in the translation, or are they corrected and improved upon?
You should also prepare the text in a file format that you would use for a typical localization workflow (e.g., XLIFF or XML). This will allow you to investigate whether the vendor has the right technical setup for the project.
Create a level playing field
Some teams use different parts of a document with varying difficulty levels and characteristics for their test translations. This makes it hard to objectively compare the translation quality offered by different translation providers. It makes much more sense to send the same text to all vendors.
If you want translators to faithfully reproduce your brand identity, then you should give all vendors access to the same helpful reference material like terminology lists. This will allow you to create a level playing field if you already have a vendor that you regularly collaborate with. This service provider will have a competitive advantage if it has access to certain information or has maintained translation memories for a number of years.
Compile objective evaluation criteria
A scoring system will offer you an objective framework for evaluating your software test translations. Don’t get tied up in knots – keep things simple. Weight errors according to criteria like terminology, accuracy, tone, grammar, and spelling. For example, the translator should adhere to stylistic requirements for a marketing project, while product terminology and accuracy should take center stage in technical documentation.
Does the vendor go the extra mile?
Good translation agencies don’t just produce reams and reams of translated texts – they play a significant role in helping your company to communicate across the world. That’s why they should point out errors in the original text, inquire if there are any uncertainties, and discuss strategic translation decisions with you. For example, Milengo can provide potential customers with a translation report for test translations that explains our translation approach, justifies terminological choices, and indicates tricky aspects of the text. For that reason, you should observe whether the vendor takes a transparent and strategic approach to your translation project.
Good communication is key
While translation quality is incredibly important, you should also think about how your project was managed. Was it easy to communicate with the vendor? Were your requests promptly responded to? Did the project managers send helpful queries about the translation? These are all good indicators of a vendor’s professionalism.
Always remember – patience is a virtue
You may expect a test translation to be completed within a few days, especially if it’s a brief text. However, short turn-around times may not reflect a real-life translation workflow. The agency you have commissioned probably won’t have enough time to properly prepare the translation process, and may have to forgo conventional best practices, such as recruiting the most suitable translator for your needs. This is because expert translators – for example, those who can best translate software documentation from English into French – are often booked out well in advance. That’s why we recommend that you factor in enough time to get the best possible results.
Expand your frame of reference
A vendor providing a good test translation doesn’t guarantee that it will uphold the same high quality standards demonstrated in the test translation in your future working relationship – after all, it’s a short sample that has been created under controlled conditions. That’s why you should also ask the translation agency for reference translations it has produced for other clients in your industry. Examining software that has already been localized will give you a valuable insight into how well the vendor performs under real working conditions.