Provide Accurate Original Text
Translation can be a "garbage in, garbage out" process. Translators are not revisers. In fact, their mandate is to translate what has been submitted. Of course, if a glaring error surfaces, then the translator will flag this. But the buyer of translation services would be mistaken if his/her expectation of an outcome would be the provision of a corrected translation as a final product (as opposed to a correct translation). A correct translation is a document that accurately reflects the original text.
Editing and Proofreading
It follows that if editing or proofreading are required, these tasks should be performed on the original text, before it is sent out for translation. Many translation agencies and companies provide editing and proofreading services in addition to translation services. (And so do we, by the way.) Also, there are some excellent Editing and Proofreading Resources in the CILFO Translations Proofreading & Editing Store.
Acronyms and Abbreviations
Acronyms and abbreviations are virtually unavoidable in lengthy report-like documents. They are useful in making a text more readable. But like any 'good thing', overuse is not such a good thing. It's so easy for a reader (not to mention a reviser or proofreader) to get lost in a document that is top-heavy with acronyms. All is not lost however, as there are mitigating measures that can be resorted to render the reading less arduous.
If a document contains more than a handful of acronyms, then an acronym glossary is virtually de rigueur. The acronym glossary should follow the table of contents in a text, especially in long documents.
In addition, the first time a given acronym appears in the body of a document, it should appear in brackets following the long form of the expression it represents, i.e. Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT). If the document has multiple parts, sections or chapters then the long form expressions should be repeated in each section.
Consider using an index of definitions and /or glossary of terms with technical or legal documents. Definition sections are especially useful to translators as they are invariably the first items to be translated and are enormously helpful in adhering to a consistent terminology construct. This is especially the case when long documents are being split up among two or more translators in translation assignment situations that are governed by tight turnaround deadlines. A well-translated list of definitions will establish a style and terminology discipline that may be difficult to achieve if a definitions and/or glossary of terms are absent.
Things to Avoid
This goes beyond the point mentioned earlier on the subject of accuracy. There are things that any properly constructed text should avoid, whether it's going to be translated or not. Things to avoid: make sure that none of the writing is ambiguous; any acronyms and abbreviations that are not properly spelled out; in-house jargon, i.e. words or expressions that would puzzle an 'outsider'; culture-specific material that would not resonate or be recognizable by a broader audience; puns, jokes and plays on words that simply don't translate – it's problematic to cite examples of such things, but all savvy writers and readers readily recognize them.
Sayings and proverbs are problematic as well, though many of these can and do cross cultural boundaries; their equivalents can be found. We have some examples on this website – go to English<->French proverbs for you to enjoy.
Translators are at their best when they are provided with related information to work with. Context is important, so any background material related to the subject matter requiring translation should be freely and readily supplied to translator(s) or reviser(s). Illustrations are especially helpful, particularly for product labeling or instruction manual translation assignments.
Also, if some of the material has previously been translated, it should be provided to the translation team. This serves to avoid any duplication of effort and ensures that subject specific terminology is applied consistently. The material should be marked "For Reference Only".
If any of the material is of a sensitive or competitive nature, simply request a sign-off to a formal confidentiality agreement by all parties concerned. Professional organizations handling client material and documentation are usually governed by internal confidentiality protocols and signing off on such requests is in the normal course of business. Trust is a translator's stock in trade, so anything that can be done to make clients more comfortable with the handling of their information will be implemented. All you have to do is ask. If a legitimate request meets with resistance, then a "red flag" has been raised.
• Basic Proofreading Guidelines
• Speaking of Accents
• Website Localization
• Going Global
• Machine Translation
• Translation Memory
Additional Information Content in Translation Guides
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