Having worked on numerous eLearning productions over the years (and now being responsible for a multilingual product) I know there is more to translating a course or a system than just getting it “transferred” into the correct language. There is the translation of the words and then there is the localisation, the part which ensures the translated words are actually understood in the right context. This is no different when communicating with colleagues or customers in another country. Is that email you are sending actually going to make sense to the person reading it?
Let me share a few things I’ve learnt over the years when it comes to translations.
- Be clear. Don’t make any assumptions when getting content translated and localised. What is obvious to you is not obvious to your translator. We once told a translation agency that was translating a course for a retail customer to make sure that they also localise the images when translating the course into each of the three languages. In our instructions, we said, choose a local fruit, but the crucial part is that we did not detail which fruit. The fruit used, which to this day I’ve still never seen, was local to the translator, but not to the country it was being translated for. If you want it properly localised and images are in scope make sure you are very clear on what you want.
- Use experts. If you have a colleague who speaks the language you are translating into don’t fall into the trap of asking them to translate for you in an attempt to save money. If you are translating a piece of software for example, this could go horribly wrong. Have your colleague actually done this job, or used this kind of application in this language before? Being Swedish but having worked in England for the most part of my life I can tell you that translating words in a context unfamiliar to you in your native language is a bad idea. I will guess, and sometimes I will get it right, but often I will get it wrong. Don’t fall into this trap!
- Don’t rely on Google. Google Translate will help you get the gist of what someone is trying to say but will not give you anything near to the quality that is required for you to translate for your customer/audience. Let me share an example I came across: The English words being translated were ‘be safe’. Now the problem here is that English has two different meanings for this word - as the English language often does. ‘Safe’ as in safety and ‘safe’ as in a strong fireproof cabinet with a complex lock, used for the storage of valuables… What could go wrong?
These are just a few lessons I’ve learnt and some tips I have. Feel free to share your own.