Smart is better value than cheap

Six ways to save money through translation

© bnenin / Fotolia

© bnenin / Fotolia

You are probably familiar with this situation: the documentation for your system has been completed, but before you can export the complete package to France, the relevant documentation needs to be translated into French. The cost factor involved in translation should not be underestimated.

But is it possible to lower these costs? After all, you regularly have similar texts translated into the same language, so shouldn’t you be able to benefit from that?

You are quite right – in such circumstances, translation costs can absolutely be optimised. But how?

The most obvious option is to lower the per word price. Such arrangements are agreed to individually within framework agreements. But even though this cost reduction has an immediate effect on the next invoice, it is not necessarily the most sustainable option.

So let’s take a look at the other factors that affect the cost of translations. There is one side-effect I want to refer to here: in addition to cost savings, the following measures usually go hand in hand with more consistent and standardised original documents.

So where do we start?

1. Standardisation of texts

The translation of technical documentation is usually charged on the basis of so-called match scales. Put simply, that means: if the sentence

The oil-lubricated rolling bearing keeps the pump shaft centred.

has already been translated and appears again in the current translation, this renewed translation is discounted considerably – after all, the existing translation can be reused. But if the sentence in the current document is

The rolling bearing, whichis lubricated with oil, keeps the pump shaft centred.

the contents of the two sentences are identical, but their syntax is not, and so the savings are smaller.

Standardising HMI texts for various systems not only produces great savings, it also avoids confusion and prevents frequent questions.

2. Standardisation of the terminology

Once again, consistent use of terminology automatically increases the repetition rate and thereby ensures lower costs. At the same time, it prevents frequent questions and translation errors from the very beginning:

Is the customer portal the same as the customer cockpit? Or are they completely different platforms that have to be translated differently?

Does your operating manual use the term web page, while your marketing documents refer to your website? Do you want to make a distinction between these terms in the translation?

A well-maintained terminology database can answer these questions, because it specifies and defines the terminology to be used; ideally, it will identify prohibited synonyms as well. What is especially useful is that almost all translation management systems (TMS) offer interfaces to these database systems, so that translations can be checked for any inconsistencies before delivery.

3. Modular document structure

Text repetition can go even further: instead of repeating individual sentences, you can repeat entire passages. The resulting repetitions are usually discounted even more heavily.

Such repetitions are facilitated by working with text modules and combining them into longer texts. As well as reducing translation costs, this also saves time during document creation.

4. Content management systems

This is where content management systems (CMS) come into play, because they take up the concept of text modules. Most of these systems are module-based, which means that repeating modules simply need to be referenced in the correct position during document creation without any additional editing.

Even better, you can achieve huge savings through smart interfaces between the CMS, standard translation memory systems, and everyone involved in the project, be they editors, translators or terminology experts. As well as money, this process can also save you time and annoyance.

5. Marking non-translatable elements

Software documentation in particular often contains keywords, directory names and variables that must not be changed in translation; changing such values could actually result in errors.

Simple preparation methods, such as <tags> and variables %3, can be used to mark any parts of the source text that must not be edited. If a CMS is in use, software texts can also be defined and referenced as such.

Practically every TMS offers the option of blocking such texts for editing. And what is the advantage? These parts of the text are not included in the text volume analysis, so you don’t need to pay for them.

6. Using style sheets

Style sheets help with a consistent document structure. I have already described the many advantages of standardisation in detail, but the style sheets are of benefit to more than just the repetition rate.

Among other things, they can be used to define standards for the layout – for example, that graphics must not contain text, and any explanations must instead be provided in a separate key. This immediately and considerably reduces the amount of additional DTP work required. And this saves money as well as cutting down on post-processing time.

Sound good? We agree!

So where is the catch?

The measures I have listed all involve initial costs to some degree. You may not even be certain that the cost and effort will even be ultimately reflected in the translation costs. We cannot take this decision for you, but we can advise you if you have any questions.


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