Pitfalls of survey translation and how to avoid them

June is Pride Month, and this year we happened to have the chance to work on an interesting and appropriate project: we translated a survey on transgender identity. Translation of a survey itself requires special care, technical skills and linguistic awareness, and this is especially so when dealing with such a sensitive topic. So what is so challenging about surveys and questionnaires?

Technical challenges

Usually an online survey is written in HTML, where placeholders and other non-translatable units abound, and the file is exported to an .xls format. The preparation of such files can be time-consuming and requires some knowledge of coding and HTML itself. With cutting-edge software technologies and an experienced team this is not a problem for us. As always, it is essential to ask the client for detailed instructions about non-translatable items (e.g. abbreviations, programme titles, organisation names), character limits and the context in which the survey will be published.

Linguistic challenges

Surveys and questionnaires have a relatively well-defined structure, and the linguistic differences are also more striking and immediate than in the case of a general text. Grammatical gender, for instance, especially in Romance languages, such as French or Spanish, can pose a dilemma for translators, as the gender of the noun actively affects other elements of a given noun phrase. This can result in unusual solutions – for example, in the case of shorter answers where the translation follows a linguistic structure different from English, and translators sometimes have no other option but to use four forms (sing. masc./sing. fem./plur. masc./plur. fem.) of a word or expression. When the target audience and the subject of the survey is the LGBTQ+ community – whose grammatical gender representation is part of an ongoing social debate – this requires greater care on the part of the entire translation team.

In surveys even repetitions do not work the same way. Responses in rating scales (e.g. Good/Fair/Poor) can be translated one way in one context and another way in another context, depending on the question.

Numbers replaced with placeholders can also pose added complications. In some languages, like Polish, the number itself can modify the gender and the number of the noun phrase which means, again, that several forms of the same noun have to be included.

At the same time, questions discussing present/previous experiences of the respondent often need to be completely rephrased when a grammatical tense simply does not exist in the target language.

In English, you is a general pronoun, but in many languages, there is an informal (tutoiement) and formal (vouvoiement) way of addressing others. Another problem to deal with. This is where background documents (screenshots or additional information) can help the translator, while taking the target audience into consideration, and communication with the client can also provide further reference points to ensure an accurate translation.

To sum up, survey translations provide a platform for us to show our technical and linguistic expertise and ability while requiring flexibility and creativity in translation. The management of such projects is time-consuming and complex: it needs an experienced and proactive team and continuous communication with the client. If your translator does not ask questions, it’s time to get suspicious!

Our solution for seemingly impossible translation deadlines – SPCs in the spotlight

Chemicals is one of the main fields in which Eurideas specialises. We translate and edit chemical documents daily, including safety data sheets (SDS), Exposure Scenarios, official certificates and summaries of product characteristics, aka SPCs (see here for a previous blog post about general aspects of translating SPCs).

Sometimes we translate SPCs from scratch. In other cases, we update previous translations. We can manage all such tasks in the .xml format of the SPC Editor! We’ve devised a highly efficient method for situations in which our clients have a tight schedule for submitting the language versions of long SPCs or need to update an SPC based on the Commission’s feedback. It might sound daunting – especially if the text needs to be translated into several languages – but Eurideas is up for the challenge!

 

Let’s take a look at how we can translate SPCs into as many as 25 languages in 5 days!

 

Generally, we ask our partners to send us the final translatable document. There are cases however, when it’s better to receive the draft version first! If, for instance, a document containing several thousand words needs to be translated into all the official languages of the EU, plus Norwegian and Icelandic (i.e. a total of 25 languages), the translation process takes several days. But what if we have only 5 days for the task?

If the translations are required to be submitted within 5 days of the Commission’s approval of the English version of the SPC, a flexible and creative working method is called for. Translating in two stages can be advantageous here: our translators can take their time working on the draft version; then once the final version has been approved by the EC, they can update the translations within a few days. The bulk of the work takes place in the first stage. Both the translators and our quality assurance team have enough time at their disposal. Of course, planning is key here – we need to know in advance when we can start updating the translations of the first draft and make sure that our team of linguists is available. Thanks to a tailor-made translation process and going the extra mile, a seemingly impossible deadline can be met.

Of course, we may need to translate the final version within 5 working days, with no time to translate the draft first and then update it after it has been approved by the Commission. That is also feasible if the SPC is not too long and we know about the job in advance. However, that method of translating the SPC puts all participants in the translation process under some stress, which might be a potential source of errors (which naturally we all want to avoid).

It’s important to note that we can save time and be more cost-effective if we’ve already built a translation memory for our partner that we can use for the new translation or update. It’s therefore worth thinking long-term and assigning all translation and updating work to the translation agency that can handle your projects most efficiently.

A solution that works well for SPCs can work for other types of documents too. Similar customised workflows can be developed for other projects. No matter how long the text or how short the deadline, it’s always worth asking us if we can get the job done.

Translation and layouting in one package

As an international translation agency, we assist our clients from all around the world with their projects. We take part in projects promoting cultural events, supporting human rights activist foundations, advertising assistance with health issues, and the list goes on. One could think that we only do translation and editing. But our work goes far beyond that and this is what makes it interesting and exciting.

One of the additional services we provide is completing the typesetting of the translated documents. With this, our clients receive not only a translated text but ready-to-print files as well. Usually we do typesetting on books, leaflets, sales brochures, labels, posters and many other kinds of documents. Working on the layout design of these documents is itself interesting, but what happens if we add 23 languages to the project? How can we, as an agency, facilitate our clients’ projects?

We can divide these projects into two parts. First, we complete the translation and editing of the text into the requested languages. If we have a multilingual project, for example into 23 languages, the project manager must coordinate 46 linguists working on the project. Strict time management and precise knowledge of every little detail are very important for carrying out such huge projects.

Once the translation and the quality check are ready, we send the translation to our client in a bilingual two-column RTF file. We always ask for our client’s approval of the translation before proceeding with the typesetting. Why is this useful? Actually, we can save time and money for the client. It is more comfortable to compare the source and target text seeing them next to each other without the layout. It’s also easier and faster to correct the translations in the text files than in the layout files after the typesetting is completed.

After the client has approved the translations, our DTP specialists carry out the typesetting and what the client receives is the final ready-to-print file. One of the biggest advantages of this additional service is that the client doesn’t need to be in touch with a translation agency plus a graphic designer. We can carry out the whole process coordinated by one contact person assigned to the client.

Written by Zsanett Kórik, Project Manager at Eurideas Language Experts

 

Easy to read, not so easy to do

At Eurideas we translate several thousands of words every day, but our routine and experience doesn’t mean that we don’t face interesting challenges which require a new approach and a different way of thinking. A Communication and PR consultancy in Brussels knocked on our door recently with an unusual request: they asked us to proofread the translation of a text about the European Union in 22 languages, following easy-to-read guidelines.

What does this mean exactly? People with intellectual disabilities have the right to obtain information that is easy to read and understand, so that they can learn new things, take part in society, stand up for their rights, and make their own choices. Texts written for this special target group are usually indicated as ERV (easy-to-read version) and should follow certain rules. The sentences need to be short and simple, the words used need to be common and easy to understand and should be used consistently through the document. The formal aspects are also important: one line should contain only one piece of information.

The growing tendency to consider and address the needs of social groups with special needs is welcome, and not only does it mean an exciting challenge but also a great honour for us to contribute towards this mission. After all, it is not common for a translation agency to receive an assignment that is so important in terms of social responsibility.

Of course, we had to approach this project differently from an “everyday” proofreading. Given the sensitivity and importance of this task, it required additional skills from the linguists, flexibility and empathy – we needed to rethink our usual working methods, put ourselves in the readers’ shoes, and consider the possible difficulties more than ever. Asking for background documents and doing research on the topic of the translation is always important, but it was particularly essential in this case. Luckily, our client provided us with the relevant guidelines to begin with, which we supplemented with additional information and instructions for the linguists.

Speaking of these, another crucial point of this project was choosing the most suitable proofreaders for the job. We needed open-minded and flexible linguists. It was very important to make them understand that this time, we didn’t expect them to change a sentence because it was grammatically incorrect, but also because it should meet the needs of a special target group.

Although the topic of the text was the European Union, it would have not been the best choice to rely on the linguists we usually work with on EU-related documents, as these are normally quite complicated texts, with long, compound sentences and an overwhelming amount of technical terms. Instead, we preferred linguists with a background in pedagogy or social studies who have a better understanding of people living with intellectual disabilities and their needs.

I’m happy to say that, in the end, the client was happy with the results and the translations have been published on the europa.eu website. We are very grateful to have this opportunity to contribute to supporting people with intellectual disabilities. We are always open to new challenges and look forward to receiving requests which require a different approach.

Written by Kata Vas, Project Supervisor at Eurideas Language Experts

Website translation – why is it different?

You’re just back at your desk from a meeting, motivated, full of energy, and inspired by this new assignment you’ve been given. As part of its efforts to enter new markets, your company is planning to set up a German version of its existing English-language website. Great responsibility, high visibility… but you lack experience. As a client, you’re familiar with the general process of having documents translated by a contracted agency, but this is the first time you need to deal with a website. All you have is a URL address and no clue about how to kick off this project.

No Word file, no worries

First, you need a quote for the work, a timeline, and then someone to help you set up an action plan.
The first question of any professional language service provider will be the volume. Who can tell how many words there are on the umpteen subpages of a website? In your mind’s eye you already see yourself copy-pasting the contents of the website into a Word document. The good news is that you can spare yourself the trouble. Contact your IT people or website developers instead and ask for the XML files of those pages you need translated into German. There are several other file formats translation agencies can work with, so if XML is not available, all is not lost.
XML files allow your translation partner to generate an analysis of the translatable volume with a click of a button.

One small step in the right direction

Once you know how many words need to be translated, it’s easier to estimate how much time the linguistic work will take, including preparation, translation, proofreading, and an in-house quality check. When creating a timeline, however, it’s recommended to allow for a few extra days and to have an additional step in the process. Instead of completing the entire translation phase in one go, you might want to check a smaller batch – let’s say a few pages – first to make sure the quality, style and wording of the translation meets your expectations. If you’re happy with the taster, you can move on to the full menu. Remember: a company website can include as many as 50,000 words!

The proof of the pudding

XML files contain translatable text along with other types of non-translatable content. Translation tools help the linguist separate the two, and while the English text is replaced by German during the work, all the other content remains unchanged. You can be safe in the knowledge that you receive the translation in the same file format from the agency. This makes developers’ life a lot easier – posting the new language version is as simple as a file import –it saves you time and, most importantly, money.
Before publishing the new pages, don’t forget testing! Functional testing doesn’t require language skills, but it’s something you shouldn’t skip. During linguistic testing the proofreader checks the pages for typos and out-of-context issues and makes necessary amendments such as shortening a caption if it doesn’t fit.

Are we there yet?

When you think “Finally, we’ve got it!”, it’s not yet time to celebrate. Depending on the new audience, you may have to adapt pictures, colours, symbols or even the website layout and site navigation to be culturally appropriate for your new viewers. And what’s the point of having a great website in multiple languages if your customers can’t find you? A successful online presence is unthinkable without SEO translation.

Written by Anita Salát, Communication Manager at Eurideas Language Experts
Connect with Anita on LinkedIn

How to meet halfway?

Every year in January we decide to be a better version of ourselves, to reduce stress in our lives, to improve our working methods in order to be more efficient. Easy to say – but how can we make these resolutions work in real life? As a project manager I always face challenges concerning my projects and sometimes it is hard to stick to the usual plan or to well-tried practices. What happens when the client’s workflows are different from ours? What if we have to work under time pressure? How to ensure that each other’s work is efficient and both sides are happy, in the end? How to meet halfway?

Last year we began a great and successful cooperation with a client (https://www.aboca.com/) that produces medical products and I have become their dedicated project manager. We receive Italian-Polish translation requests on a daily basis for various kinds of materials. The language combination is remarkable in itself!

At this point more than 130 projects have been completed successfully, and I can say that these projects are my personal favourites, full of challenges and lessons.

Based on these experiences I have collected a few tips to make our projects successful, even if they are not easy to beat:

#Tip 1: Identify risk factors and reduce them

When we receive a project, we always go through the details to gain a clear view of the risk factors. It is very important to check all the details with the client, so that we are on the same wavelength. What they expect – how we can meet their expectations. If we speak the same language from the very beginning and we clarify important details, our cooperation will be smooth.

#Tip 2: Create a workflow that pleases both sides

Naturally every company has its own workflows and when we start our cooperation, we need flexibility to work out methods that will help our collaboration. Our job is to observe and analyse all the factors to be able to come up with perfect processes and solutions. For this, we also need the help of our clients. I remember the first projects of this particular client, when we faced challenges to implement all their needs into our workflows. But after a couple of projects we created a workflow that works flawlessly, even after over a hundred projects.

#Tip 3: Organising materials

Let’s say that the client has a huge campaign with diverse materials: labels, product descriptions, leaflets, website materials, books etc. With these projects, consistency is very important and the key to that is organising materials that consider our needs and goals. When the client has the opportunity to send us all the materials together, this can help to create unified and consistent campaign materials that will serve the client’s needs better. Also, if we take into consideration the financial side, this can result in a smaller project budget, since we undertake one large project instead of many little ones at minimum fees.

#Tip 4: Time management

If someone were to ask me, what is the key to a successful project, my answer would be time management. The ideal delivery date is: as soon as possible. Of course, we always try to meet the client’s needs but we need to see realistically what can be done in a given time frame. If we want translations to be delivered under unrealistic circumstances, it can lead to stress, mistakes, and unsatisfied expectations. Meeting halfway concerning delivery dates is also part of the cooperation. Guaranteeing high quality and agreeing on a reasonable time schedule go hand in hand. And what can help to achieve it? Get ourselves organized and think ahead.

#Tip 5: Thinking ahead

If we know that we will have a large and important project and we also know the details and time schedule in advance, we can communicate this to our language service providers. Why is it good for everybody? We can prepare our team to be ready for it. We can reserve the most suitable linguists for the job and we can also organise our processes accordingly. This way we can save time and stress for both sides.

 

By Zsanett Kórik, Project Manager at Eurideas Language Experts

Connect with Zsanett on LinkedIn

 

 

How relay interpreting works in practice

Interpretation at the European Parliament

From September to November and from February to May it’s conference season in Brussels, which means that the need for interpreting services increases significantly.

In November 2017, we provided interpreting services for several meetings of MEPs in the European Parliament, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, the Greek Energy Forum, and Medtech Europe. We also organised Spanish interpreting services for the COP 23 climate change summit in Bonn.

Recently we organised interpreting services in the German, French and Italian languages for an agricultural meeting of MEPs in the European Parliament, and I was lucky enough to attend the event. As interpreters usually work in pairs, six interpreters went to the meeting to carry out language mediation. In such cases, our company is happy to provide an on-site coordinator from the project management team, who is responsible for acting as a first point of contact for the client and for the interpreters.

Nowadays, so-called relay interpreting is used at multilingual conferences. This means that the first interpreter listens to the speaker and interprets the message into a target language that is common to the other interpreters. This is called the pivot language, which is – most of the time – English. The second interpreter listens to the English interpreting and interprets it into a third language for those members of the meeting who speak neither the first nor the second languages.

Let’s see how it works in practice: at this meeting there were English, German, Italian and French speakers in the audience. The first speaker started his presentation in Italian, therefore the Italian booth interpreted his message into English. The interpreters in the French and German booths listened to the English interpreting and interpreted the message into their mother tongues, namely French and German. This is how we were able to provide simultaneous Italian-French and Italian-German interpreting without having interpreters in these language combinations.

Relay interpreting is extremely demanding as interpreters have to depend on the English relay for the whole meeting. Basically, the original message is translated twice before reaching the audience. This is why it is really essential to work with highly professional interpreters and proper technical equipment. Eurideas always works with highly skilled interpreters; most of them are accredited to the European institutions and have at least five years of experience.

By Dóra Rapcsák, Eurideas project management team

2 languages, 20 documents, 70,000 words – one extraordinary project

Recently, one of our valued clients contacted us with an unusual request: translating a large batch of documents examining Ukrainian-Russian relationships, military transactions, missile purchases, the personal backgrounds of businessmen, and so on. The files for translation couldn’t have been more diverse – these included transcripts of interviews, contracts, and letters, but also screenshots from Facebook and handwritten notes. On top of that, they were written partly in Ukrainian and partly in Russian, sometimes switching back and forth between the two languages.

In the case of large projects like that, it is crucial to assemble the right team of linguists. As always, we were looking for native speakers of the target language (which in this case was English) who are experienced in law and social affairs. This has proved to be a difficult task, since it’s not easy to select linguists in the Russian-English and Ukrainian-English language combinations.

However, after the team was ready, the project ran quite smoothly. The linguists were not only great professionals in the field but also kind and flexible, which made cooperation more of a pleasure than a burden. The translations were continually delivered to the client for almost a month, making this project the longest-lasting of all Euridea’s jobs in the summer of 2017.

The project was challenging, not only for the translators but also for me (the project manager), and for the QA team. Handling all the documents, making sure that all of them were translated perfectly and on time, required a lot of concentration – not to mention that every single step had to be administered correctly. As a new colleague at Eurideas, this was my first big translation project, and while it was very difficult to manage, I have now gained great experience.

Given the confidential nature of the documents, these translations are intended for internal use and will probably not be published on any platform; however, we hope that we could contribute to the success of our client and maintain this long-lasting and fruitful relationship.

By Kata Vas, Eurideas project management team

The challenges of translating an international campaign

Translating the content of a large-scale campaign is always challenging, especially if you have to translate it into several languages at the same time. Recently, we participated in a very exciting project: we translated the ‘Inspiring Women 2017’ campaign – launched by C&A Foundation – into 14 languages.

The ‘Inspiring Women 2017’ campaign is an initiative led by the C&A Foundation to support the situation of women worldwide. The campaign was launched in 17 countries. As part of this project, we translated numerous campaign materials, such as leaflets, posters, presentations, tool kits, and the content of the campaign website.

Besides providing the multilingual content for the campaign’s website, we also transcribed a Dutch campaign video and prepared English, French and German subtitles for this.

During the translation process we had to meet tight deadlines set by the campaign producers and managers. Just to mention a few of the challenges that had to be tackled:

First of all, one translator and one proofreader worked on the translations for every language combination, so we simultaneously had to coordinate 30 linguists during the translation process. At the end, our QA team had to ensure that all the materials were perfectly consistent, and that they followed the brand guidelines.

Since we prepared the translations for every country participating in the campaign in their local languages, we had to take into consideration the fact that in some countries there is more than one official local language. Therefore, we prepared Italian, German and French translations for Switzerland, and Flemish and French translations for Belgium.

Translating a campaign also involves localization work. The name speaks for itself, as linguists have to create translations that are adapted to the local target audience, while keeping the impact, tone and style of the original content.

We constantly received feedback from the local marketing teams and had to instruct the linguists accordingly. For instance, the German, Austrian and Swiss local teams preferred different styles and tones, so eventually we delivered three German translations using different styles.

We received the English copy in batches, and sometimes had to work with a very fast turnaround in order to deliver the translations according to the planning of the campaign. Luckily, everything went smoothly and we managed to accommodate our client’s needs.

Overall, it was a very exciting experience for the Eurideas team, and we are looking forward to the next challenge.

By Dora Rapcsak, Eurideas project management team

Chinese-English interpretation in the chemicals field

We recently had the opportunity to provide Chinese interpreting services at a chemical regulatory event focusing on Asia. The location of the conference was Brussels, Belgium. The participants were from the European and Asian chemical industries; most of them were from the regulatory field. Therefore the presentations were quite technical, specific to chemicals.

The interpreting went very well; however, we faced some difficulties before and during the event:

  • In Brussels, there are only 2 English-Chinese interpreters who are experienced in high level conferences, so we had to book them 3 months in advance.
  • We asked the Chinese speakers to send their presentations in advance. Unfortunately, the presentations they sent differed from ones they held at the conference. Although our interpreters were rather taken aback, they managed the situation very well, and no one from the audience noticed that the interpreters were actually seeing the presentations for the first time.
  • One of the speakers proved quite a challenge: he spoke very fast (simply reading out his speech) and did not speak Mandarin, but some local dialect. The interpreters did their best to follow him, but they finally they asked the speaker to slow down and speak Mandarin.

Thanks to the professionalism of our interpreters, the audience did not notice these difficulties at all, and some people even came up to us to congratulate us on the high level of interpreting.

Our company only works with highly professional interpreters; most of them are accredited to the European institutions. This way we ensure that the quality of interpreting is very high and our clients are always satisfied with the outcome of their events.