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Austin Becker is localization project manager for US Translation Company

Efficient Translation Tools

Efficient translation revolutionizes the localization process. Today, technical translation costs less, has better accuracy, and takes less time than ever before. What makes such efficient translation possible? Translation technologies, tools, and processes have improved. The resultant savings of time and money has benefited enterprise clients of translation providers. Also the providers themselves. Here at U.S. Translation Company, we deploy efficient translation methodologies that stand up to any in the industry.

The less efficient translation of the past

Historically, translation of written text was always a slow and laborious process. Translators worked with a stack of dictionaries (or, more recently, several web browsers) open, looking up words and phrases. Working in these ways, translators averaged a translation rate of about 1,500 words per day without compromising quality. Consider that many corporations localize upwards of a million words per year. One translator working with zero days off would only keep up with half of that workload.

Increasingly efficient translation technologies

Enter an array of modern solutions that have boosted translators’ outputs by 25%-40%. Today’s translators use a collection of electronic resources, the most powerful being CAT (Computer Assisted Translation) tools. CAT tools act as a repository for past translations. They put previously used terminology, words, and phrasing at a translator’s fingertips. This eliminates the need to open a dictionary every time a translator forgets a word (or questions their own judgment). After all, retaining an extensive vocabulary in a second or third language represents an almost superhuman feat of memory.

US Translation Co. utilizes MemoQ translation software (by Kilgray) to accomplish three improvements to the older way of translation. Firstly, the tool helps us to reduce costs and turnaround times. Secondly, it allows us to maintain consistency in translation. Finally, it empowers U.S. Translation Company to improve overall translation quality. These three improvements result in the most efficient translation system humankind has ever known. In the following paragraphs, I’ll explore how the software enables us to make gains in each of these three areas.

Reduced costs, shorter translation times

Often, companies translate specific documents over and over again. Known as “living documents” (think material safety data sheets, instructions for use — documents subject to frequent revision, albeit with minor changes), they undergo multiple iterations. U.S. Translation Company uses previous translations to “pre-translate” large sections of these documents.

For instance, a certain U.S. Translation Company client needed 150 product formula documents translated. Using CAT tools, we completed nearly 80% of the work with automated “pre-translation” (basically, reusing the previous translations to auto-populate the new documents), meaning only 20% of the text required translation from scratch. We eliminated 80% of the client’s cost and also reduced the project turnaround time. Although CAT tools frequently facilitate this sort of efficient translation, cost and time savings offer but one reason to utilize advanced translation tools and software.

A higher-quality translation product

Consistency and quality are actually the primary reason to use CAT tools. As translators complete translations within a CAT tool, they save their work for later use in what is called a translation memory. Translation memories contain massive lists of phrases, sentences, and their contexts. A CAT tool uses the translation memory to “remember” an old translation and suggest it as a possible correct translation of a new document. This makes for a more efficient translation because it eliminates the need to look up technical jargon in a dictionary more than one time. It also ensures that subsequent translations match former translations in syntax. Finally, the use of translation memory empowers the foreign reader. Such consistency in terminology, phraseology, and syntax enables them to parse the message much easier.

Even if a substitute translator must step in (U.S. Translation Company uses the same translator for consecutive projects of the same client whenever possible), the translation memory allows her to effect a seamless translation that reads the same as the prior translations performed by her predecessor. This consistency is imperative in technical texts such as instruction manuals.

English readers would face confusion, for example, if the text referred to a given part of a machine as a “dial” in one paragraph but a “tuner” on another page. Now, imagine a translated document, revised multiple times, with each revision translated by multiple translators and each translator using his or her own terminology. An unusable document would result. Translators employ translation memory to avoid these issues. In addition to ever more efficient translation memory, they have several other tools that contribute to consistency.

The importance of translation tools

Glossaries (aka bases), LiveDocs™ and Linguistic Quality Assurance (LQA) models are comprehensive tools used by translators to ensure consistency and quality. Glossaries are multilingual dictionaries of a company’s unique terminology. The glossary contains an English term, its definition, and one or more preferred translations of that term. LiveDocs™ is available in MemoQ, our company’s preferred CAT tool, to compare old English documents with their previous translations. By comparing the English and translated files, we can find and reuse past translations that have never been entered into a translation memory. LQA models are similar to the spell checker and vocabulary checker in word processors but are more comprehensive.

In short, an LQA model categorizes errors, for example, as critical or minor. This is useful because minor errors might not merit a revision of a translation but are good for the translator to see and avoid in the future. A critical error, however, might indicate that the translation must be changed before publication. When time is a consideration in the translation process, it is extremely useful to prioritize errors based on their importance and impact to the final translation. This prioritization allows U.S. Translation Company translators, QA specialists, and desktop publishers to adjust remedial time and energy to the error importance. All of which enables us to deliver a more efficient translation.

U.S. Translation Company continually evolves

In our effort to deliver the highest quality to our clients as well as to deliver the most affordable and efficient translation product, U.S. Translation Company is at the forefront of innovation in the language services industry. If a process, technology, or tool enables us to better serve our customers, we adopt it. It’s all part of our signature white glove service.

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