7 tips for working with a translation agency

Translation agencies are here to help you. We take pride in what we do and we’re always looking to improve. But getting the best possible results takes teamwork. Only you know what you need from your content, so offering clear and concise instructions will only make the finished product better. Here are some simple steps to make working with a translation agency as efficient and effective as possible.

1. Check the translation agency does what you need

If you don’t do a little research before you choose the best translation agency to handle your project, you might hit a roadblock right off the bat. No matter how diverse the background of a translation agency, no company will be able to accept a job in every language or every type of document. An agency’s website will list the languages they translate, what kinds of work they specialize in, and often a brief sampling of their active clientele. Don’t ignore this information. If you’re not sure if a company can accommodate you, it never hurts to ask. But ruling out total nonstarters will save time for everyone.

2. Introduce yourself

So you’ve chosen a translation agency you’d like to work with. You probably know a little about them from your research process. Now it’s time to help them get to know you. Your translators don’t need to be experts about your business; but it’s a good idea to give them a general sense of who you are. This will allow them to tailor content to your desired audience. They can also get a head start on reading up on specialized vocabulary they might need for your field. Some translation agencies will have more time than others to devote to building a relationship with you, but any good company will want at least a little familiarity.

3. Don’t do more than you need to

If you’re looking to work with a translation agency, you’re already on the right track. You’ve recognized that even if you have some knowledge of your target language, you’re not a professional; translating requires more skills than just language proficiency. This all means that one of the best things you can do for your translator (and yourself) is to let them do their work. It might seem like attempting your own initial translation will save time, but more often than not it makes things harder. If your second-language writing is unclear, the translator will be spending time untangling and rewriting it. A well-written text in the original language, on the other hand, provides much more useful information and can be translated in one smooth process. Even if you do feel your initial translation is fairly strong, send the original text too, in case certain words or phrases need clarification.

4. Be honest about deadlines

One of the primary negotiations you’ll have with your translation agency will be to do with deadlines. I say negotiations, because your motivations will often be different— you’ll want content translated as soon as possible, and your translators will have schedules packed with more than just your project.

Meeting translation deadlines

Don’t create urgency for no reason if you want a quality translation

However, deadlines can be worked out smoothly as long as everyone is honest. Your translators will be honest about how quickly they can finish a project without sacrificing their quality standards. You should be similarly reflective. If you know you need something done sooner than the deadline you ask for, you’ll be at risk of stress and trouble unless it just happens to get done early. On the flip side, if you demand it get done right away just for the sake of having it in hand, the product might not be as good as it could be, and that translator might be less happy to work with you again. When it comes to deadlines, open communication is key to positive relations.

5. Have a clear brand message

You can leave most of the work to your translation agency, but there are a few questions that only you can answer. For example, often in our multilingual marketing work here at VeraContent, we encounter names of companies, programs, events or products. It often doesn’t occur to us that even branded names such as these are not always language-neutral. Many such names involve words that will be meaningless when taken out of the culture that speaks the original language. For example, if you’re a Spanish soap company with a line called LujoPlus, buyers in your area will understand that those soaps are your more upscale options. But prospective customers in England won’t know “lujo” is Spanish for “luxury”.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. You might decide you like the sound of the original name enough to leave it as is and let the meaning go. Or, you might prefer to pick a translated name and use that in English marketing. The important thing is that you make a decision and stay consistent. Things will get confusing for all involved if your product is called LujoPlus in some promotions and Luxury Plus in others. Your translator will be happy to use whichever terms you prefer and handle the consistency for you. Just be sure to tell them how you want it.

6. Provide clues when research might be needed

Research is part of a translator’s job. Any time we come across something we aren’t familiar with, we try to get the gist before translating around it. This ensures we aren’t misunderstanding crucial details. It’s not a client’s responsibility to explicate their content, but a helpful note here and there, especially for niche references, could save your translator a lot of time. If your text talks a lot about an acronym, for example, add a quick note of what the letters stand for (especially since most acronyms will change from language to language).

7. Give feedback if you’re partnering long-term

Your translation agency wants you to be happy with your results. Like any kind of writing, translators rely on feedback to improve the work they produce. A lot of this feedback will come from internal editing at the translation agency— any final product you see will have been passed around and carefully polished by the team. That process will ensure the language sounds good and is free of errors.

Giving feedback on translations

Feedback is an important part of building a relationship with a translation agency

But there are always issues of personal preference. Only you can judge if something has come out exactly how you wanted it. So if you’re cultivating an ongoing partnership with a company, let them know if there are things you’d like done differently. A good translator will be happy to make adjustments to content style or formatting of so it best serves your needs.

Of course, it will be up to each individual translator to ask for what they need to make your translation top notch. But having these points in mind is a great start to getting the most out of your collaboration. Good professional translators care as much as you do about producing a clear and effective final product. The more you can work together, the easier it will be to get there.


Find out if VeraContent is the right translation agency for you. Get in touch and tell us about your project for a no-obligation chat about what we can offer.

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The psychology of good web design

Making a great first impression is important, and that goes double for websites. If you’re designing a multilingual website for your business, consider harnessing these subconscious influences for maximum effect. Read on for five small things that can make a big difference to your website.

Color

If asked to associate colors with feelings, most of us could easily rattle off some common clichés—blue and green are calming, red is energizing, purple is royal and sophisticated… The trouble with laying out a hard and fast index of color associations is that in practice, color meanings are often very subjective. One person might have a garden full of daffodils and see yellow as a happy energizing color, while someone else might remember the time they ate five bananas in a row and felt queasy. 

Website colors

The colors you use in your website can speak volumes about your brand

So you can’t put too much stake in your color choices sending a crystal-clear message. The best you can do is make sure your color choices doesn’t obviously clash with your brand’s identity. Pull up any famous logo and it’s not too difficult to work out why its colors were chosen. For example, notice how the discount store chain Target, which aims to be unpretentious and “of the people”, uses a simple unpretentious primary red. The same goes for McDonald’s friendly color scheme: eye-catching yellow and hunger-inducing red (most fast-food chains opt for red because it’s said to trigger appetite).

Meanwhile, Chipotle, the sophisticated side of American fast food, uses a deeper maroon hue. Imagine if Target’s logo was a dove-gray fleur de lis, or if Chipotle branded itself with neon orange. It would change the image entirely, and you would feel instinctively that something was wrong. These considerations are vital when designing a website, especially a multilingual website where colors can also have cultural significance.

Contrast

Color contrast adds interest and guides a viewer around a webpage. Our eyes are drawn to contrast, and we also remember information longer when it stands out visually. So if you want to get people to click on a certain button or remember a name or phrase, make it pop, like a bright red against a field of pale blue.  

If you’re using WordPress or another helpful platform for your site, you can take advantage of the pre-set color scheme options. These are nice tools for those who aren’t trained in graphic design. They let you get a more complex-looking final product without risking color clash, because they pre-pair shades that work well together.

Font

When it comes to typefaces, you must once again think hard about your brand and what qualities your core customer will be looking for. An elaborate script could intrigue a luxury shoe shopper, but strike someone looking for combat boots as snobby and bourgeois. A slick sans-serif font could speak to a hipster seeking a metropolitan hotel but come off as flighty and untrustworthy to a family that needs a bank.  

Website fonts

This font might look great on paper, but online it might be harder to read

Also important to pay attention to is the combinations of different fonts your webpage uses. If your page is too uniform, it can be like speaking in a monotone voice; everything would run together and the viewer might lose the sense of how to navigate the page. Contrast principles of color apply to fonts as well. If you want a headline or phrase to stand out, make it bold and sans-serif where the rest of the page is more delicate, or curly and ornate where its surroundings are utilitarian. If you want to keep things simple, there’s also the option of sticking to different versions of one font, adjusting the size, boldness, or italics.

When translating your website into multiple languages, be sure to check out how each language looks in your chosen font in case certain characters don’t display clearly.

Spacing

We rarely pay attention to a page’s spacing when it’s done well, but we notice if it’s out of whack. Spacing affects all elements of your webpage. Lines of text must be spaced so the reader doesn’t get them mixed up, but also doesn’t have to leap too far from one to the next. Both of these defects can make the information hard to follow. Different sections of text should be arranged on the page so that it’s clear where one ends and another begins.

In addition, pay attention to the overall composition of the page. Is there enough negative space, with no text or images filling it? If your site is a wall of words or too busy, a visitor might be overwhelmed. If one page is overstuffed with content, consider breaking it up into sub-pages, making sure there’s an easy-to-navigate menu. Let viewers get your message at a comfortable pace, not as an info dump.

Multilingual websites must take special consideration for spacing as formatting can unfortunately change with the text.

Mobile compatibility

Your work isn’t done when your website is a beautiful symphony of color and typeface. It will all be for naught if you haven’t made it compatible with mobile devices. These days, a big portion of your viewers will be browsing from their phone or tablet, and they won’t be impressed if the content is garbled or won’t load. Even if they stick around and suffer through it, a mediocre site reflects badly on your competence.ç

Mobile compatibility

Not having a well-designed mobile site today can lose you valuable users

Luckily, WordPress and other website builders can handle this issue for you. If there’s an option to create a mobile version of your site, take it. You might wish everyone could see your desktop site in its full glory, but it’s better to accept the limitations and take control of your brand’s mobile face. A mobile site should generally be simpler and less cluttered to cut back on tiny touch-screen buttons and frustrating wrong clicks. Pictures are always attention grabbing, so be sure they show up on mobile devices. On WordPress, it helps to save your images and upload them to the blog photo library, rather than copying and pasting. This will make them more stable and less likely to malfunction across platforms.

Be sure to check your mobile site thoroughly in every language it offers as formatting errors can occur on the small screen that don’t necessarily affect the desktop version.

Put it to the test

Once you think you’ve got your site design as tight as possible, it’s time to do some testing. The most obvious way to do this is to have members of your team look at it and pick out anything awkward or distracting. A pair of eyes besides your own will be helpful; it’s hard to see something objectively when you’ve been staring at it for too long.

However, to really test your site, you’ll need outside help, people who can mimic potential customers. Be clear on what concrete outcomes you want from your website. Do you want visitors to make a purchase, join a mailing list, or request more information? These specific results are what web designers call conversions.

A great way to test conversion success is with A/B testing. A/B testing shows a pool of subjects two different versions of a page, and tracks which version most often produced the desired click. Google Analytics offers an A/B testing service; this is a great proactive step to optimizing your site.

Web design is a specialized career, and this guide is of course no substitute for those years of study. But if you’re still getting off the ground and don’t have a design team, these key considerations are a good place to start. 


Don’t launch a live version of your multilingual website if you’re not 100% sure the language, tone and style is accurate. VeraContent offers proofreading, translation and copywriting services to make sure your multilingual website launch goes off without a hitch.

8 tips for a quality translation

In our ever-globalizing world, companies need quality translations and reliable translators. It takes a variety of translators who specialize in various major languages to ensure an idea can be communicated around the world.

The field of translation is growing every day. Quality translators pay attention to detail, work patiently and have a firm grasp of both the target language and the source language.

Here are eight tips that any translator can use to ensure a quality translation.

1. Translate one text at a time

When translating a text, try to dedicate your time to that text only. Good translators tend to fixate on a text, devoting all of their attention to it until they produce a quality translation.

This method allows the translator to dive into the writing of the source text and become familiar with the voice of the author. This tip is particularly useful when translating literature or dialogue.

A character, setting or action is often presented to us through language. An author uses this carefully chosen language to give us clues about a character’s nuances and defining qualities. Immersing yourself in the source text is particularly helpful when trying to replicate those nuances in another language.

2. Clear up any ambiguities

Ambiguities in the text make it particularly hard to make a quality translation. If you come across a sentence that can be understood in more ways than one, the translation may need to be interpreted. Sometimes the translator has to make their best educated guess as to the author’s intended meaning.

via GIPHY

Any ambiguities could lead to a misunderstanding and consequently a mistranslation. So be extra careful to make sure your interpretation is not contradicted in any other parts of the text and best fits the context.

If the source author is not available to clear up these ambiguities, it is the translator’s job to professionally analyze the text and choose the meaning they think best fits the context of the writing.

3. Choose your register

The register of a piece of writing has to do with how the author uses language to achieve a certain level of formality. A Buzzfeed article has a very different register than an article from the Wall Street Journal. Vocabulary, tone and grammar help determine a text’s register.

Switching between registers is very important for a translator. When translating a text the final product should have the same register as the original. If the text reads very formal in the source language and the translated text is full of abbreviations and slang, chances are the translator did not write with the same register.

The small details are usually what determines a text’s register. Simply adding a “y’all” to a text adds a level of informality and gives off a conversational tone. It is important to include some indicator of that tone in the translation, even if there is no direct translation for an abbreviated “you all.”

4. Use your tools wisely

Translators are only as good as their tools. While there are many great online translators and quality dictionaries, a quality translation should not solely rely on one source.

Google Translate

Online tools are a great help for translators, but they still haven’t replaced the human touch

Quality unabridged dictionaries are a necessity in translation. However, not all dictionaries are created equal. Make sure you know the best dictionaries for your target language, such as Collins or Oxford Dictionary for English, or the DRAE for Spanish.

Online tools like WordReference.com or Linguee.com provide great platforms to discuss usages and grammar in your target language. Combining these tools, and finding the tool that best solves your particular translation problem, will help you end up with a quality translation.

5. Know your character set

Translators should have a good grasp of the target language’s punctuation. Not all languages use the same rules for punctuation.

A quality translation includes correct punctuation, not just well-translated ideas. Common punctuation mistakes include making mistakes in quoting in various languages, using inverted commas or question marks, or including the correct accent marks.

Paying attention to punctuation shows that a translator doesn’t overlook the details.

6. Cultural adaptation

A problem arises when you try to translate an idea that will only be understood by a specific audience. The Harry Potter series has been translated into over sixty different languages from the original British English version.

The translation of these books was met with a variety of obstacles, as they are full of non-existent words, names with more than one meaning and alliteration. For example, how would you translate “muggle” or “Severus Snape”?

However, the cultural references posed an even bigger challenge for translators. When J.K. Rowling mentions “figgy pudding” in the book, a translator has a few options to choose from.

Assuming the target language does not know what “figgy pudding” is, the author can omit the idea altogether, make the idea applicable to the target audience, or make it general so anyone will be able to understand. The translator can also leave “figgy pudding” untranslated to show that while it has a place in British English it is not common in other countries.

Cultural adaptation allows the translator some creative license to modify, add or delete ideas so the text can be understood by the target audience.

7. Be faithful to the text

One of the most important aspects of translation is staying true to the text. A quality translation replicates the ideas presented into the target language. Things are not added unnecessarily or omitted when the thought is hard to translate.

A good translator stays true to the text by picking the correct register and clearly understanding the idea the source text is trying to express.

8. Always keep your ears open!

Last, but certainly not least, good translators constantly listen to the language around them. Translators asks themselves, “does this sound natural?”

One of the best ways to sound natural when translating into a target language is immersing yourself in the language and listening to the natives.

If your dictionary presents you with two options for a word, go with the one you hear used most. It is awkward reading something you would never say yourself, so keep those ears open and absorb the language around you. Not only will this help your language skills, but it will help you create a quality translation as well.


VeraContent uses a range of tools and a dedicated team of language experts to offer our clients the best possible translation service.

Language is power: how our words reflect and affect our world

How often do you stop to think about the ways in which words affect the world around you? Probably not very often. It’s easy to take language for granted. We see, hear, and speak it constantly. We use it to communicate, to understand, and to think. It is the very basis of the complex society in which we live. And yet this immense importance often goes unnoticed. Language blends into the background precisely as a result of its ubiquity.

Of course, those of us who work in the field of translation have no choice but to pay attention. We make our living by thinking about language—not only in terms of its structure and style, but also on a much deeper level. Translation is more than just changing words from one language to another. It requires an understanding not only of the literal meaning of each text, but also of its cultural context, its target audience, and the intentions behind it. Because of this, translating often brings to light the many ways in which the language we use reflects the world in which we live, as well as its power to influence it.

A reflection of history

Let’s begin with a broad example. In recent centuries, English has become what many call a “global language.” Some even go so far as to predict that it’s on its way to becoming the “universal language,” meaning that one day everyone across the world will use it to communicate. When it comes to translation, it’s easy to see the traces of these trends. More and more companies, publications, and media outlets are making the effort to have their content translated from various other languages to English, knowing that this will allow them to reach a wider audience or clientele.

In other words, English has power: financial power, political power, and cultural power. Across the world, people who speak it often enjoy greater opportunities and options than those who do not. Companies who utilize it are able to expand internationally to an extent that might not otherwise be possible. We could spend hours discussing the advantages and disadvantages of this reality. But the fact is that right now English is arguably the most powerful language in the world.

But why? Why English, and not Spanish, or Swahili, or Cantonese? The answer also has to do with power. Language reflects culture, and in this case the power of English reflects the power of certain countries. Until relatively recently, the United Kingdom held the reins to the world’s largest empire, with colonies scattered across the globe. Their superior industrial capacity meant that they were able to conquer new territories and impose their own cultural norms, laws, religion… and language. As a result, English found its way into nearly every corner of the earth.

British Empire English global power

The British Empire in 1907 (British possessions are shown in pink)

Language in the age of globalization

Today, of course, the UK no longer has a global empire. But one of its former colonies has arguably overtaken its one-time ruler as the new world leader. The United States may not be considered an empire by traditional terms, but its enormous political, economic, and technological power has given it a similar level of influence.

It doesn’t take the physical conquest of territory or the intentional imposition of English to change linguistic habits. The forces of globalization, often skewed in favor of the United States, are indirectly influencing people around the world to learn English for their own personal gain.

learn English international education

English is becoming increasingly valued in classrooms around the world.

In other words, the former power of the United Kingdom and the current power of the United States have endowed English with a power of its own, which then reinforces the global influence of the countries where it’s spoken. Whether or not it will one day become truly universal is up for debate, but there’s no denying that it’s powerful.

The power of translation

So we know that language has power on a global scale… but what about the individual level? Every word that we read in a magazine article, on a website, or in a company newsletter can affect our perceptions and influence our actions. Translators have a unique perspective not only on how language reflects larger societal trends, but also on its influence on individual people. In fact, this small-scale power is something that translators must consider on a daily basis. It’s an integral part of one of the greatest challenges that we face in our work.

Professional and effective translation requires the maintenance of a precarious balance between preserving original meaning and adapting texts to suit new audiences. As translators, we have a responsibility to understand what the writer wants to communicate; not only the literal meaning of his or her words, but also the intentions and assumptions behind them.

However, we also have a responsibility to the reader to provide them with a text that makes sense from their own frame of reference. We must consider the preexisting knowledge and beliefs of the target audience members, who speak a different language from the original writer and therefore exist in a different linguistic and cultural context. In order to create a successful translation, we must adapt the original text to fit this new context, often changing it drastically or even removing some parts altogether.

Every word matters

This means that translators not only have enormous responsibility, but also an incredible amount of power. The choices we make when translating have a direct impact on how each text is understood, and therefore on how it influences each person who reads it. Language is just one of many lenses that refracts meaning on its way from the writer to the reader. As translators, it’s our job to direct and shape this refraction. In order to do it well, we must simultaneously apprehend, adapt, alter, and anticipate the meaning and effects of our words.

So next time you read a sign, scribble a note, or verbalize an idea, take a moment to reflect on everything those words represent. And remember: just as the power of translation should never be underestimated, neither should the power of language itself.


VeraContent’s dedicated team of translators and linguists offers a range of translation and multilingual copywriting services to make sure our clients’ words pack the right punch.