Translating More for Less

A large stack of documents to be translated sitting on a deskAs the world economy becomes more globalized and interconnected, the amount of content for which translation services are necessary is growing exponentially along with the entire language services industry. Whether you are looking to expand your business overseas, file patent applications to protect your intellectual property overseas, or handling high-profile international litigation, you undoubtedly will be dealing with huge amounts of content.

Of course, the volume of content and availability of qualified resources are not the only issues when it comes to dealing with the massive amount of information. Cost is another of the key drivers when it comes to deciding whether or not to translate certain materials. Fortunately, there are several ways in which clients can translate more for less.

Machine Translation

Over the past decade, much as been made of the advances in machine translation (MT). MT is certainly a viable option for dealing with large volumes of content at a lower price point than working with professional human translators. Nevertheless, MT does come with limitations when dealing with certain types of content.

If you’re working with content in a “clean” digital/soft copy format (e.g., MS Office files, digitally-generated PDFs, etc.), then MT may be an option for you. However, you should be careful to work with a professional translation company that offers machine translation via specialized MT engines rather than “free” tools like Google Translate. Specialized MT engines are designed to handle certain types of technical content and provide a much higher degree of accuracy than a free online tool.

Unfortunately, if you are working with either hard copies or scanned PDF files, MT is not an option, as the text is not “live” and therefore cannot be captured by the MT engine. There are Optical Character Recognition (OCR) tools on the market that can convert text into a readable format. However, these software programs still require a human editor to review the documents to clean up extraneous coding leftover from the conversion process and re-formatting. This is a laborious and costly option that is usually not feasible when trying to save on time and costs.

Summary Translation & Sight Translation

If you do have to work with hard copies or scanned documents, another viable option is a summary translation or “gist.” For a summary translation, clients can send their documents to a translation company to be reviewed by a translator who will scan through the documents and provide summaries of the pertinent content as specified by the client. For this option, the client must provide a detailed list of the types of information they are looking for, such as any references to a certain company or individual, documents from a certain date range, etc. Once the summaries have been completed, the client can then decide if any of the content requires a full, professional translation.

Sight translation is when a translator will come to a client’s office and go through the documents together with the translator either reading aloud a verbatim translation or a summarization of the content based on the client’s instructions. As with summary translations, the client can then decide which pages or documents require a full translation.

In conclusion, whether you are facing a mountain of German pharmaceutical testing reports, financial disclosures from a Korean company, or boxes full of evidentiary materials in Spanish for a criminal complaint, the potential costs for translating these materials can be overwhelming. Fortunately, there are options available to help clients save on costs. These services work as a type of document “triage” so clients can make an informed decision about which documents may require a full, professional translation.