Micro Translations: Challenges and Options

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There is an increasing need for micro translations nowadays. There is so much demand for this service that the American Translator´s Association recently decided to have a session on micro translations for Language Service Providers (LSP) in an annual conference. But what are exactly micro translations? Why is it challenging to get them accurately and quickly translated, and do this on a budget? And what options do you have?

The translation of one word, one sentence or one paragraph at a time is called micro translation. This request for translation can of course come in any language pairing. Translations like these usually require a fast and timely turn-around. They are usually needed for software program updates, apps messages, online screens, website updates, games, etc. They could also be translation of taglines, postcards, posters, ads, disclosures, packaging texts, etc. Most of them require a lot creativity and out-of-the box translating!

Unless requests for micro translations come in on a frequent basis, many translation providers would actually rather not do them. The reason why they prefer not to tackle them is that they usually lack a key element for translation: Context. Without context, it is nearly impossible to come up with the best translation or adaptation for any particular term or phrase. As a result, the provider needs to ask several questions to the client and the back-and-forth might take longer than a simple two-page straight forward translation request. If the pay is still by the source word and not by the hour, it might be simply not worth to do it.

To be able to achieve reliable, timely and affordable micro translations it is essential to develop a close relationship with a professional translation provider who gets to know your brand, acts as an extension of your in-house team, and is willing to work within your budget.

Below are advantages and disadvantages of different types of translation services that can offer micro translations:

1) Free online translation services:

Advantage: Absolutely free of charge and immediate turn-around. Neither registration nor download needed.

Disadvantage: No quality control. Also, since the software does not understand context yet, and no human is involved in the process, the translation might not be accurate for your purposes. It is highly recommended not to use them to translate legal, marketing communications, or advertising.

2) Online translation agencies that promise a one hour or next day turn-around:

Advantage: Affordable rates if no quality control is involved. However, you can choose to pay extra for quality control. No Minimum Fees apply. Translation is charged by the word whether it is one word or 10 words and you can pay via credit card.

Disadvantage: You have to be registered as a user and usually have your credit card on file. This type of service has a pool of several hundreds of registered freelance translators who are notified when a new job comes up. Whoever replies first, he/she gets to do the job. If you will have frequent translation requests for the same project and you are looking for consistency in terms of voice and terminology, this service would represent a challenge as it is highly likely that there will be a different translator who is unfamiliar with your brand and project every time your request comes in. Additionally, the most experienced translators do not take micro translation assignments because they prefer longer and better paid translation jobs. You can read more about that on translation forums by doing a simple Google search.

3) Large LSPs:

Advantages: Translation always goes through quality control. These LSPs usually have a pool of several hundreds of tested and certified translators and they can take on simultaneous micro translations requests at a time. They usually hold an ISO certification and have proprietary computer-assisted translation tools that help them with speed and consistency.

Disadvantages: They apply the highest rates in the market in addition to usually non-negotiable Minimum and Project Management Fees. It is very unlikely that you will have direct contact with a translator in case questions come up. You will have to go through a series of levels (i.e. sales, person, project manager, etc.) to get a language-related answer.

4) Smaller or boutique LSPs:

Advantages: Translation always goes through quality control. While they have a smaller translation team, they usually have a pool of steady and loyal tested and certified translators, and many have in-house translators. Chances are that the same translators are assigned to the same client, thus guaranteeing consistency in voice and terminology. Additionally, they offer a more personalized service and thanks to smaller overhead they can offer reduced Minimum Fees, waive Project Management fees, and/or batch requests to accommodate client´s requests. They use computer-assisted translation tools by large industry providers that help them with speed and consistency.

Disadvantages: They usually can’t take on many simultaneous micro translation requests at a time. Also, they do not have proprietary CAT tools and they might not take credit cards.

5) Freelance Translator

Advantages: They can offer affordable Minimum Fees or by source word rates. They usually do not charge Project Management fees. You will always get the same translator for your project, which helps with consistency in voice and terminology if they work with glossaries.

Disadvantage: They are not always available. Most freelance translators work part-time only and they might not be able to take on rush requests or turn a translation around the same day. While a good professional freelance translator will review his/her own work before delivery, there is no extra pair of eyes available for translation review. Not all of them use CAT tools for consistency purposes and most do not take credit cards.

Language Concepts Consulting is a boutique provider of multilingual translation services. Languages we translate from and into include: English, French, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Vietnamese and many more. We partner with organizations looking to penetrate and/or serve the multicultural markets in the USA, and Latin America. We provide native-quality and culturally-sensitive translations that get our client’s message across and resonates with their target audience.

For more information, please give us a call at 480.626.2926 or visit us at www.languageconceptsllc.com.

Kathy Paredes

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