Pre-translation preparations

There is a lot more to translation than meets the eye. Yes, the essence of the process is translating a piece of text from one language into another, but there is a lot more to consider than many people are aware.

There are lots of factors that need to be taken into account both before starting work, and during the translation process itself. Clarifying these points, and identifying any issues at the start helps to ensure a smooth translation process, and avoids delays while any difficulties are overcome.

Depending on the size and complexity of the project, clients should be asked several key questions, including (but not limited to):

What is the purpose/end use of the translation?

File formats – what format do they need the translation back in?

Processing text post-translation – will it be added to a Content Management System, or typeset into a design ready for print? If so, are those responsible experienced in doing so?

Reference material – could include previous translations and any background information to guide the translators. Clients who take the time to provide such information reap the benefits by getting an accurate translation that reflects their company style and is immediately fit for purpose. Without background information, the translators are often working in the dark, and it can take longer to produce text that is ready to use or publish.

Is there an  in-country manager who will be reviewing the text, or who can help with any terminology queries?

Is the author of the document available to answer any queries about its contents?


Answering these questions helps the translation provider to choose the best translators to work on the project, as well as brief them on the style and terminology that are required. The more detail a client provides, the more likely it is that the translation provided will meet their expectations.

There are also other steps that a client can take to facilitate translation of a text, before even involving a translation provider:

Edit the source text

  • Does every word and phrase earn its place? Be concise, without losing clarity.
  • Keep it simple – the easiest sentences to translate are those that convey their meaning clearly and briefly.
  • Avoid jargon – if you are using highly specific terminology, prepare a glossary
  • Avoid humour and idioms – these rarely translate well into another language, and are an easy source of confusion for both the translator and the end reader

Any reputable translation company can advise you on the suitability of your text for translation, and the best providers can edit the source text for you before translation.

Find background information

  • Has the document or a similar text been translated before?
  • Are other translations that the company is happy with available in the target language?

Plan the process

  • When does the finished translation need to be ready?
  • Factor in time for any other processing, such as adding text to a Content Management System, or getting a brochure commercially printed.

Putting this advice into practice should help to make the translation process run smoothly.

We welcome your comments – are you a client who’s found these tips useful? Or a translator who’s felt before that they need more information before beginning a translation?

By continuing to use this site, you agree to the use of cookies. For more information, read our Privacy Policy

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close