Last-minute language translation—avoiding the hassle

man checking his watchLife is life, and reality sometimes shakes out in less-than-ideal ways.

Case in point: It’s not unheard of for time-critical language translation projects to fall into your lap unexpectedly—oh, and the final translated content is due in two days. It happens.

With painful scenarios comes the unpleasant prospect of risks and inefficiencies. While situations like this are at times inevitable, it doesn’t mean you must remain vulnerable to it going forward.

There are process improvements you can make to help decrease the frequency and likelihood of these urgent, just-popped-up language translation projects.

First, let’s address the potential impact of rushed translation.

Why waiting ‘til the 11th hour can present difficulties

  • Your primary linguists could be engaged elsewhere

We typically establish a set of primary linguists for a client, people who possess the relevant expertise and who have a high degree of familiarity with your company, your content types and your language translation project needs.

When last-minute projects fall due, it’s possible that the primary linguists aren’t free to work on your project. While we still have backup linguists who also have the necessary expertise, they’re not going to be as familiar with your company as the primary linguists. Consequently the end result may not be as solid.

  • Quality assurance is still there, but it’s fast-tracked

Of course, for rush language translation projects we still go through all of the usual quality process steps to ensure an excellent end result. But because we have fewer days in which to perform all quality assurance steps, it means that the linguist-editors and reviewers are going through them faster than they normally would.

Linguists also typically conduct research before they begin the actual language translation—checking on local phrasing trends or changes in your industry’s preferred terminology, for instance. But if they just have to dive in and start working, they may have to cut short their research time. Related to that, there also may not be time for a final review.

  • Possible rush fees

Every project’s circumstances and requirements will differ, but language service providers could tack on rush fees as high as 50 to 100 percent of the base charge if your request is urgent—say, delivery in under 48 hours. After all, linguists may have to work longer hours or dedicate a weekend to getting your language translation project completed on time. The rush fee depends on the timeline, project type and the language service provider you’re working with.

Plan ahead for language translation

So, what can you do to guard against unexpected translation projects? Start by looking at your translation program as a whole.

Unplanned and urgent translation projects can wreak havoc on a company’s content lifecycle process and timeline. To save everyone time and worry, it’s a good idea to incorporate translation requirements into your entire global strategy from the outset. This way, everyone has visibility into what’s going on and when.

It’s also a great idea to set clear expectations with your translation provider about your language translation timelines. If fast turnaround is something you’ll need routinely, we can line up the resources and plan for this in advance for a repeatable process. The better informed we are early on, the more easily we can meet your expectations.

Clue in your in-house translation coordinator

Sometimes the person in an organization who handles language translation may be given a project that needs to be completed in a very short timeframe. This translation project coordinator is now facing a tough decision. Push the project through and hope for good results, or try to arrange for a deadline extension?

Clearly, problems can creep in when the coordinator has blinders on when it comes to project timelines and big picture expectations. Always make certain that everyone involved in the translation chain of command has equal visibility into projects so they know what to expect and when.

Sometimes “by tomorrow” just isn’t feasible

Here comes a caveat. While we do all we possibly can to accommodate a client’s rush translation request, there are instances where we can’t in good conscience give the green light to fast-tracked language translation requests. Yes, translating 10,000 words in two days is theoretically possible given our access to a vast pool of qualified linguists. We could segment it up and farm it out to multiple linguists and have the work back to you in time. But it wouldn’t be worth the potential issues with messaging consistency and overall cohesiveness.

The fact is, we have high quality standards to uphold, and we know that you do as well. For that reason, there are times when we may tell you that a project just isn’t feasible in such a truncated timeframe.

Translation shouldn’t be an afterthought

It goes back to basic common sense: when you plan for language translation upfront, it makes life easier for everyone. That said, we realize there are times when an urgent project comes up and rushed translation is inevitable. We just want you to be aware that you have more control over these types of projects than you may realize.

Are there some process improvements you have made to avoid too many eleventh-hour translation jobs?

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