Probably the single most useful piece of information you can provide a translator is a good audience and usage description. A good audience description will have the following:
- Who will be reading this translation? Will it be presented to high level management staff, will it be for technical reference purposes or will it be for the general public in the target language(s)?
- What regions/countries will those people be in? A Traditional Chinese translation may not necessarily be for a Taiwanese audience. Your target may well be the Chinese community in Vancouver, LA or Sydney. Style and syntax may well vary.
- What dialect is required? Mexican Spanish is quite different from European Spanish, and the French of the Caribbean is again different from that of Canada. Particularly with front end marketing copy (such as websites) this difference is important.
- What not to translate? Are there any terms, brands, product names etc. that should not be translated? Many companies prefer to maintain a consistent brand name/look worldwide; or would you rather have your brand localized to a suitable target language name?
- Currencies and measurements? Should you be presenting pricing in the target currency or do you want it left in your local currency? With measurements, should these be localized (e.g. imperial to metric)?
There are other parts of the audience description that can be of great help to the translator, e.g. some content may have an age specific target market. The more information you can provide the translator the better.
Translation preparation - master content preparation
The next step is to ensure that the master content has been fully prepared. This means that a full set of the final materials are ready for translation. They should have been independently proofread at least once, checking for typographical errors ("were" instead of "we're") as well as style and structure. Don't just trust it to the spell checker in Word.
Note also that when a translator has to work with isolated terms (such as when translating within data strings from an online database or application) that there will be a lot of questions. For example, the word "link" in English can be a noun ("a link") and a verb ("to link"); when viewed as an isolated term the usage may not be immediately apparent, so whever possible clarification is needed.
It is also important that once you have sent this to the translator(s), that the content is not changed/edited any further at your end until the translation is completed. Issues will arise when clients make multiple edits to master content during the translation process; tracking of the changes becomes difficult and maintaining consistency with the final version can be an issue.
Translation preparation - file preparation
We prefer if the client supplies a full set of files, with a file list (e.g. as a spreadsheet) and submits to us. This way we can ensure we have not missed any files and it is a simple matter for both parties to track the completion and delivery of the content. Note that some DTP applications do not work particularly well across languages (indeed in some applications a file created in one language version of the application cannot be opened in a different language version). It pays to check with your translation provider.
One other issue relates back to translating in context. We frequently work on websites etc. where we have to translate in data strings. Translating in data strings is not an issue; but we do need to be able to see the final translation in context. It is a very different proposition looking at independent lines of code and the final web page where the translation is published.