Open Translation Tools

Preparing Content

The amount of time it takes to translate a document and the quality of the resulting translation depend largely on how well the source text has been prepared for translation. By following a few basic best practices you can encourage the translation of your content , make the process more efficient, and ensure that the message is not lost in translation.

The translation industry employs a few strategies to help ensure that content can be well translated.  These include:

  • Constraining language - by limiting the terminology, complexity and style of technical manuals it is possible to ensure that they remain translatable.
  • Pretranslation - in this process an editor, who understands the issues of translation into the target languages, makes changes to the source text to ensure that it is translatable.

Common Problems and Solutions

The following are a list of the most common issues and how they might be addressed.


The source content may be in various styles, some of which might not work in the target language.  A simple example would be where content is in a very personal style while the target language employs a very impersonal style in this type of content.

The source content needs to be adapted to address the issue or the translation brief should specifically state the change in register is allowed in the target languages.  In the long term it might be worth establishing a style guide for the source documents.

Complex Sentence

The creator of the source document might make use of a style that creates sentences with more then one key point.  A pre-translation editor would break these into two sentences.

Consistent Use of Terminology and New Terms

It is always good to build a terminology list for the domain, this helps the translators when they are translating.  In the same way the source document should consistently use that terminology.  A pre-translation editor would adjust the use of terms to align with the terminology list.

Any new terms that are found that need definition and that will need to be developed in the target language are added to the terminology list.

Logical Flow of Arguments

In the heat of a blog post an author might make an argument that is poorly developed, that makes a leap of faith or that needs a minor tweak.  A pre-translation editor would help to clarify this logic either by correcting it or adjusting it with the author.  This ensures that translators are not faced with the issue of having to build the arguments themselves.

Repetition of Logic

An author may repeat the same idea a number of times using different examples or arguing from different directions to arrive at the same conclusion.  A pre-translation editor would either merge these arguments into one, ensure that they are each logical or write something to the translators explaining that there are two points being developed.

Foreign Language in the Source Text

Content creators may include foreign phrases, borrowed words, slang and other words or expressions that the translator may not be familiar with.  An English author writing in South Africa might borrow Afrikaans or Xhosa words and expressions.  The pre-translation editor might remove these or explain their meaning in a general way so that translators can translate them.  The editor could build the explanation into the source text so that it is easily translated and give instructions not to translate the original.

Content creators might want to avoid using terms that might be specific to their locale or to always explain words and phrases that could causes confusion.  There is of course a balance in that a personal piece full of colour and expression should not become academic or plain.

Idioms, Examples and Cultural References

Idioms can be some of hardest things to translate as they have many levels of meaning.  A translator would need to understand those meanings to be able to find equivalents in their language.  This is one reason why many people insist that translation be toward a translator's primary language as it is only in this language that the translator has full access to equivalents.  A pre-translator can explain the idiom to the translator or even highlight the key part of the idiom that is being used in the context.

Examples are the easier of this group to adjust.  It's often easy to find examples from the target language's locale.  Thus, the pre-translation editor can either find general examples or allow translators to adjust the example to their locale as needed.

Cultural references would include quotes, movie dialogue, etc.  "Play it again, Sam", "Open the podbay door, Hal", "Beam me up, Scotty" are all references to popular culture which may or may not be a part of popular culture in the target language.  However, the target language might have a rich parallel popular culture.  For example, science fiction culture in Hungarian is very rich thus offering alternatives.  The pre-translation editor will choose their approach based on the target languages including asking for a similar reference, explaining the context of the reference or eliminating the reference.