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9 Eye-Opening Questions on Translation People Often Ask

December 21, 2021
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Where should you go when you've got questions on translation? It's often hard to find reliable answers and there is a lot of misleading information out there.
Translation is a more complex topic than people often realize, especially when you are managing many translations for a global company. You probably think of an entire list of new questions with every new project.
Here at Rubric, global companies ask us a lot of questions.
In this article, we share some of the most common questions we've been asked recently. Some of the answers may surprise you.

Are your questions on translation going unanswered?

Have you been struggling to find reliable, clear answers to your translation questions?
If so, you are not alone. Although there is a lot of information about translation online, most of it is vague and unhelpful. Usually, such information doesn't answer the sort of questions that companies of your size ask us every day.
There is a reason for this… most information online is aimed at people with much simpler needs than yours. The type of translation that your thriving global business needs are more complex than the simple translation needed for small one-off jobs.
You need answers that are geared towards companies like yours.

9 eye-opening questions on translation people often ask

When someone asks us a question here at Rubric, we don't always give the answer they were expecting.
We often find ourselves "reframing" the questions that people ask us. This is because the questions are often born from a misunderstanding of how translation works in a company of their size.
Here are 9 questions we've been asked recently. The answers may surprise you…

1. How long will it take to translate this project?

This is a very understandable first question but the answer can be misleading. You want to know when the delivered translations will be "ready to go." But, most translation providers will only tell you how long their part of the work will take.
Your company's internal processes will also influence the completion date.
A better approach is to tell your translation provider what date your translated content must be published. Then, work with your provider to identify milestones that will ensure that date is met.

2. Should I provide the content as a Word, Excel, or PDF file?

Probably none of these!
Most companies assume that content must be provided in a particular format. This is because many small translation providers require specific formats.
With a good provider, the format of the content shouldn't matter. They should be able to handle any format you throw at them. What does matter is that the content is provided in the same format that it was created. This reduces engineering work and the cost of translation.

3. Will I be in direct contact with the translator?

You might assume that a translation provider will put you directly in contact with the person who will be translating your content. However, this is usually unnecessary and can become cumbersome.
At Rubric, we only put you in contact with one of your translators when necessary. For example, if we think it would be helpful for them to have a clarifying conversation with one of your reviewers. Otherwise, all communication goes through your dedicated project manager, who is your single point of contact.
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4. What tools should we purchase to manage translations?

Companies in your situation often think that they need to buy new software tools to manage the translations. For example, they might assume they need a translation management system.
Our usual answer is "You don't need any extra tools."
Unless you have a very specific use case, you are usually much better letting the translation provider use their own heavily optimized tools. The management of such tools can be significant and usually isn't the best use of your limited resources.

5. Do you create new copy or only translate existing content?

Some of your content may only be required for specific international markets and specific languages. In this case, you might need a native-language content creator for a market.
Companies occasionally ask if we provide such original content. The short answer is no — we do not create a piece of non-English content unless there is a corresponding piece of English content.
One reason for this is that the processes to create original language content are different from those to create highly-effective translations. We like to stick with our strengths. However, we can advise you on getting the most from such content.

6. Can I translate it myself and have your translators check for accuracy?

Perhaps you are looking to reduce the cost of your translations by doing the original translation yourself? Or maybe you or one of your team speaks the language?
In general, this approach is a bad idea.
Translation is a very skilled job and simply speaking the language in question (no matter how fluently) is not enough. The work that would be required to fix the translation would usually make it a bad use of your resources.
An analogy might be like having your bathroom tiled - badly. No amount of sandpaper will fix the fact the tiles are badly placed in the first place.
We normally only do this as part of a transition process where the client is not happy with their existing service. We evaluate what can be salvaged from their existing content. Then, we come up with a salvage plan and move forward from there.

7. Can I translate this with machine translation?

Possibly! Machine translation is becoming extremely a popular and powerful tool for quickly translating content at scale.
As a result, it is usually unhelpful to ask if you can use machine translation – the answer is probably "yes." A better question to ask is whether you should use machine translation for a particular piece of content.
Machine translation is only a good idea for some strategic purposes — such as supporting continuous localization of software. Your translation provider should be able to help you navigate this decision.

8. Can you help me to build a translation team?

Every so often, we are asked if we can help a company to build their own internal translation team. They want to keep their localization work in-house but they don't have the expertise to do it yet.
At Rubric, this is something that we can help companies with. Many other translation providers cannot provide this service. If you are interested in exploring this, send a message to one of our strategists.
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9. Can you translate this content for this country?

A lot of people ask us if we can translate content for a particular country. Their business sees each country as an individual market so they think they just need one translation per market.
We remind them that there can be multiple languages or locales per country. For example, India has 22 "Eighth Schedule" languages (those recognized by the Indian constitution). India also has a further 122 major languages and 1599 other languages.
If you were moving into Indian markets, would it make sense to localize into all of these languages?
Before translating for a new market, you need to work with your translation provider to identify both the languages and locales you should localize your content into.

Where to find reliable answers to your translation questions

Whatever stage of your localization journey you are in, you will likely come up with new questions all the time.
Where is the best place for you to find answers to your questions?
You want a source of information that is geared at companies of your size. For example, the Rubric blog is specifically aimed at global companies that want to make their localization processes more efficient.
If you have specific questions you would like answered, feel free to ask one of our strategists who will be happy to help.
And if you are looking for a new translation provider… for a list of 9 great questions to ask a potential provider, download our free guide.
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