Five suggestions for successfully managing your translations

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The translator is not the only actor in the success of a translation project. He or she plays an essential role and it is in your interest to find a good one. I hope my website has convinced you that I fit the description. I take what I do very seriously and pride myself on the professionalism of my linguistic services.

But you too play—believe me—a very important role in the translation process. Why? Because you are the one who will determine in what conditions the translation will be carried out, and that can change everything.

Following are several things you can do to ensure that your translation project is done in the best possible conditions.

1. Decide on translation at the beginning of the project and anticipate the time needed for it.

Very often the decision to translate is made belatedly. Translation on tight delays is a reality of my profession and assuring good client service means being able to respond when this happens.

Nevertheless, waiting until the last minute is not a good tactic. Translation takes time, much more time than people think, especially in highly technical subjects such as biomedical sciences. At best, waiting until the last minute means a rush-job translation and quality will inevitably suffer; it's one thing if the document in question is a restaurant menu, it's a completely different thing when the subject is a new surgical technique. At worst, there will simply not be enough time to carry out the translation.

Note as well that "urgent" translations are subject to additional charges.

Anticipating the necessary delay will give me the time I need to verify all technical and grammatical aspects of the target document, resulting in a better translation for less money.

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2. Whenever possible, finalize the source document before sending it off for translation.

The project is behind schedule and the deadlines are threatening. The temptation is strong to start translating because, after all, "it's almost done." And you are not completely wrong. Let me reassure you right away that it is not an insurmountable obstacle to start a translation while the source-document is still being worked on, and this is probably preferable to receiving the document at the last minute.

But given the choice, this too should be avoided. Modifying the source-document when it is already being translated can create coherency problems and provoke "domino errors," meaning that by correcting one thing a problem is created elsewhere. These difficulties are magnified by the fact that two documents need to be managed, the source-document and the target-document.

Also, post-translation modification of a source-document means a retranslation must be done, and this is billed (this is not to be confused with your right to correction, please see the General Terms (in French)).

Finalizing the source-document means being sure of your message. The translation will be all the better for it.

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3. Choose your translator carefully.

Although 3rd in this list, correctly choosing your translator is perhaps the most important step.

First, for you, a health science professional, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of direct communication between you and your translator. I consider this point important enough to make it part of my commitment to excellence. Responding to the particular linguistic issues in biomedical sciences demands total and reciprocal comprehension. To achieve this, unnecessary detours in communication must be avoided. If for whatever reason you choose not to call on me for your linguistic needs (most notably if you need a translation from English into French), I do encourage you to go to my "Useful links" page where you will find resources for finding another translator.

Next, verify that your translator is specialized in your field. I have made the decision to specialize uniquely in the already vast field of biomedical sciences. Many translators have several fields of specialty; this is not necessarily problematic, but be cautious when a translator claims to have four, five or more specialties. Everyone can of course manage their affairs as they see fit, but it seems difficult to me to be "specialized" in a large number of fields; you finish by not being truly specialized in any.

As important as the preceding points: Make sure that your translator is translating into his or her native language, English in my case. A language is subtlety after subtlety and true mastery is only available to those who are "born into it." Be wary of people who claim to be "bilingual." Although we have all used this word on our résumés, true bilinguals are very rare: only those who were born and raised in a true and obligatory bilingual environment can claim this. Note that this bilingual environment must comprise early and continuous scholastic support for the two languages as this is essential for mastering reading, and especially writing. Put succinctly, according to this terminological definition (to which all serious translators adhere), I do not qualify as bilingual, nor do the vast majority of translators. I speak fluent French, I understand French perfectly, I have been living in France since 1999, but I am not a French-English bilingual. Therefore, I translate only into English.

Also, look for a translator with formal academic training in translation. I have two degrees for my part: a graduate degree in general technical translation and more importantly a post-graduate degree in translation for health sciences. You need to know that the translation profession is in no way regulated and a diploma is a gage of seriousness. It is not the only gage of course; experience, for example, counts as well. But looking back on all I learned from my studies, I can assure you that those who have completed academic training in translation are better equipped for avoiding its numerous pitfalls.

And finally, I encourage you to contact your translator. I'm here for you.

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4. Whenever possible, send digital documents with editable text for translation.

This is almost no longer worth mentioning, we all work on computers now. However, I would like to point out the advantages for you.

First, because my basic rates assume the presence of a digital, office-type document, you avoid supplementary costs. Working from a paper document implies the creation of a new digital document to receive the target text and the recreation of the original document's layout. This demands additional time, which is billed accordingly.

Second, beyond the simple question of expenses, working in a digital document maximizes the power of modern information technologies. Fine tuning terminology, accelerating documentation, respecting the original page layout and much more all benefit from modern IT, permitting unprecedented quality in translation services.

Word (.doc(x) extension) files are the preferred medium in linguistic services. I can however work from any editable office-type file, including presentations (PowerPoint, etc.) and spreadsheets (Excel etc.) among others.

A word on pdf files

However, please note that the "portable document format" (.pdf extension) is not a working file type. This format is designed to secure the appearance (and function) of a document. A result of converting to pdf is that the document's text is no longer truly available for editing. Thus, translating within a pdf file is not really feasible. At best, it can be translated as with a paper document, extracting or recreating the text in a new office-type file, with the resulting supplementary cost. Furthermore, a re-finalization of the translated document will inevitably follow for the client. In a nutshell, always keep your office files (.doc, .ppt, etc.) from which you created the pdf; when the day comes to translate the document, you won't regret it.

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5. Be available for your translator.

As a professional translator, I make sure that I have all the knowledge and resources needed to work correctly. Nevertheless, sooner or later, I am going to have a question that only the ultimate expert can answer: that would be you, the creator of the message being translated.

This is never about asking you how I should translate something into English; that's my job. Ninety-nine percent of the time it is because I need clarification on an element of the text. Many things can provoke a "mark and ask," including of course highly technical information in the document. More frequently however, it is due to unclear and sometimes even semantically paradoxical or contradictory wording.

The goal is to respect an old expression in translation: "understand first, then translate."

Moreover, the translator's questions and comments will be very useful to you, because no one is going to read your text with as much meticulousness as your translator.

Finally, be assured that you will not be flooded with questions. As I mentioned above, my professionalism and my specialization allow me to work autonomously almost all the time. If I should have questions I will send them to you grouped and only after having attentively read the entirety of your document, because the answers are often already there.

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To conclude

When you think about the time and effort you put into your communication projects, the steps that I suggest here are really not much. Their importance however should not be underestimated. After all, your communications in English are at least as important as those in French, and when you think that you will probably have more English readers than French ones, it is tempting to say that they are even more important. It would be a shame to not give them the attention they deserve. By putting these five suggestions into action you create the ideal conditions for your translations. They will be all the better for it!

These five suggestions apply to all of my services.

To learn more

I suggest very highly the wonderfully clear and insightful "Traduction: faire les bons choix / Petit guide de l'acheteur de traductions" (in French only), available in .pdf format on the website of the Société Française des Traducteurs. You will surely find all the tips I have given here and much more. A definite "must."

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