We had the privilege of working with a very large IT US based company last fall. They sponsor one of the largest, if not the largest, IT world conference each year. Through their public relations partner they needed a translation partner that could translate their press releases into Spanish on the same day they were released in English. We had our team ready to go, and on the first day they sent us 11 press releases that had approximately 16,000 words. In the translation business we invoice our work by the word count, and a professional translator can translate on average around 2,000 words per day properly, then you need time for an editor, and a final proofreader, so needless to say, it was a very challenging project, but one we were happy to take on.

That project reiterated for us how important it is for you the client, and us the translation partner, to meet before it starts and agree on specific guidelines to be followed, especially when it involves a high volume of content to be translated in a very short time, since, once it starts, there’s no time to make adjustments and/or to meet to discuss style. If you are ever in a similar situation, I’d like to share a list of “to-do’s” and “not to-do’s” with you so you can make sure you have a very successful event:

  1. Agree on the style you will be using, for instance, in Spanish you can write in a “formal” tense which addresses everyone as “usted” which is the formal version of “you,” and an “informal” tense which is “tu.” English does not differentiate, but Spanish does. Traditionally in Spanish, the “formal” version is used, BUT, today, with the influence that all things “American” have on the rest of the world, the “informal” tense has become ubiquitous. So, make sure you agree on which form you will use from the start.

  2. Do you want to use an “Americanized” style or traditional Latin style in your choice of words for Spanish or any other language? Do you want to say “Smart Phone” or “Telefono Inteligente” for instance? Or in the case of the “cloud,” do you use the translation, or do you use the word “cloud” in English? Most countries these days have gotten used to using terms in English, so a lot of people recognize them, but the risk is that not everyone will, so when you decide to use the English name or terms, you are taking a chance that some of your audience won’t know what you are saying.

  3. Should you capitalize titles? In English we capitalize every word in a title, in Spanish for instance, only the first word. You must decide if you want to go outside the traditional and correct form in Spanish and follow the American style of capitalizing each word. Some traditionalists won’t like that, most people will probably not notice the difference.

  4. Bilingual staff: our biggest challenge always as a translation company, will you ask your bilingual staff to edit the translations? After 25 years in the business, when a client has a bilingual person on staff that is asked to review a translation, in the best case scenario, most of the changes are stylistic (not necessary unless you are an advertising company and have a creative bilingual person with suggestions that are closer to your brand style), and worst case scenario (and most common), many are grammatically incorrect.

  5. Too many cooks in the kitchen. Another challenge related to the one above, is having not just one bilingual person on staff that edits the translation, but 2,3, 4 or even 5 people. This causes confusion for everyone, especially when you are working on a time sensitive project that must be launched publicly the same day. Consistency in style and terminology are very important when you have a big project. When you have several people reviewing different parts of a project and making their own changes, this creates a lot of room for errors, and consequently, it affects how the target market (those reading your materials in the translated language) perceive your company. If there are grammatical errors, and/or inconsistency in the use of the translated terminology, your company will come across as amateur and unprofessional. Tip: if you are going to have your staff edit the translations, pick one person only so at least if there are errors, they are consistent.

In the end, the most important thing you can do to have a successful event that reaches many people in other countries and languages, is to find a translation partner that you trust, and trust them to do a good job for you. Let them do what they know best: translate.