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How to use your distributors (or subsidiaries) abroad to improve your translations

Beyond the categorical claims of aggressive salesmen with penetrating eyes that ensure perfect translations from their translation agencies, translation still has a lot of art and little science. In this scenario, perfection is hard to achieve.

What is indeed possible is to get professional quality translations. It's all about processes, tools and human capital. This is where your distributors or subsidiaries abroad can help you.

Although professional translation agencies work with translators who specialize in their clients' industries, in our experience, it generally has a positive impact to include distributors or subsidiaries abroad in the translation process.

Let's see why and how.

1.    What do your distributors or subsidiaries have to do with translation?

Your distributors or subsidiaries abroad will be the ones to work with the translated texts you send them. Any text that is not properly translated will have a direct effect on their work.

In addition, your distributors or subsidiaries abroad will generally have a more in-depth knowledge of your products or services than the translators themselves. This will be specially true in the initial stages of collaboration with your translation company, where the team of translators assigned to your account may still be getting acquainted with your company and products.

Your distributors or subsidiaries abroad are one of the best possible quality controls for the translations delivered to you by your translation agency. This is an excellent strategy to compensate the lack of internal translation quality controls due to a lack of staff who speak the translated language.

You will have to assess the effort involved in coordinating with distributors or subsidiaries, but this work can bring you to a translation quality level above the competition.

2.    How do you convince your distributors or subsidiaries to collaborate with you in the translation process?

Chasing the Santa Claus distributor

We can't fool ourselves, including distributors and subsidiaries in our translation process will be an effort for all parties: for you, for your distributors or subsidiaries, and for the translation agency or translation company you work with.

So, depending on your relationship with the other parties, it will be easier or harder for you to willingly involve them in a process that will involve more work.

If you are a small manufacturer with a very important distributor for whom your product is secondary, it is going to be more difficult for us to achieve this type of collaboration.

Here are several reasons to be used to convince those who show some resistance:

2.1. Little effort for a big reward

Without investing a lot of time, your distributors or subsidiaries can easily detect any serious translation errors in the texts. This type of translation quality control will have a direct impact on the brand image that distributors are trying to sell. This improvement in translations can have a great impact on the work of distributors and subsidiaries.

2.2. Use of the distributor or subsidiary sales team preferred terminology in translations

The participation of distributors or subsidiaries in the translation process will allow them to choose the terminology they prefer. There are many products or services that can have different meanings, i.e. be named in different ways. A good branding strategy can be conditioned by the terminology used for your products or services.

2.3. Improving future translations

By creating a communication channel between your distributors or subsidiaries you allow translators to know what the preferred terminology is. This will mean that future translations will already include these corrections or preferences, reducing the time spent on the whole process.

2.4. Process adapted to the capacity of the distributor or subsidiary

As we will see later on, we can define more or less intensive processes, thus reducing or increasing the time your distributors or subsidiaries will need to invest in revising your company translations.

In this way, we can adapt to some extent the process of translation quality control carried out by distributors or subsidiaries and adapt it to the time and resources available to them. We'll see how later.

3.    How can distributors or subsidiaries take part in my translation process?

I will now briefly explain how and with what tools distributors or subsidiaries can be integrated into your translation process.

We are going to propose two quality control strategies, one more exhaustive that will demand more time, and another that can help us convince those distributors or subsidiaries that seem not very willing to collaborate.

3.1. Review of the translation

It consists of reading the texts that have been translated. I recommend that this review is done by someone from the sales team in the case of distributors and from the marketing department in the case of subsidiaries.

TIP: Ask your translation agency or company to provide a PDF for all translated documents. You can then use the PDF as a standard format. 

Your distributors or affiliates will be able to add notes to indicate the corrections using Adobe Acrobat Reader. Acrobat Reader is a free program.

If they have Acrobat Professional, you can see some tips in our blog on how to indicate changes in a systematic and smart way to avoid mistakes and save time: "Translation changes in PDF manuals after review by your company".

TIP: It is important that you instruct the people doing the translation review to only change those things that are really relevant and to avoid making style changes. 

Style is a very personal thing. Making many style changes will make the process very cumbersome for all parties and have little benefit over the final translation work.

3.2. Terminology review

Using the correct terminology in a specialized industry is one of the biggest challenges faced by professional translators.

Please note that no translator works with your company's products or services on a daily basis. Your distributors or subsidiaries abroad are the real experts when it comes to your company's products and/or services.

When reviewing all texts would be an excessive burden on the resources your distributors or subsidiaries abroad can devote to this task, we can concentrate only on the use of terminology.

We can ask the translation company we work with to prepare a glossary of specialized terms with each translation they do. In this way, your distributors or subsidiaries abroad will be able to make a quick review of the terminology used and give their opinion on it.

4.    Confirm suggested changes with translation agency

We must not forget that translation companies are the real language professionals. Therefore, we will have to validate with our translation service provider that the modifications suggested by our distributor or subsidiary are totally correct.

It is not uncommon to find spelling or grammatical errors in changes to translations coming from distributors or subsidiaries abroad. Just because someone knows the jargon of an industry and has a thorough knowledge of this industry, does not mean that they know the more formal aspects of writing.

Therefore, the correct integration of distributors and subsidiaries in the translation process goes through the final phase of confirmation by your translation agency.

In addition, in this way you will inform your translation agency of your translation preferences to be used in the future. Your translation agency must update with this feedback the translation databases (translation memories in the translators' jargon) as well as the glossaries it maintains for you.

5.    How to balance the efforts of distributors and subsidiaries

As we have already mentioned, it is frequent that your distributors or subsidiaries are reluctant to take on the work required to revise your translations.

Although sometimes this resistance may not be justified in terms of the resources available, other times it is a matter of constraints imposed by material means.

When we encounter these circumstances, we must have the flexibility to offer different proposals that adapt better to the reality we face.

One of the strategies we can adopt is to limit the revision of translations to documents that are more relevant. For example, the translation of a corporate website or an advertising brochure will have higher priority than the translation of a manual or internal communications.

When the availability of our distributor or subsidiary is really very limited, we can limit the revision of the translation to the glossaries that have been developed by the translation service we have contracted.

These glossaries should be bilingual and, in any case, include the paragraph where the term to be reviewed appears to serve as context. We should not forget that reviewers do not have to know the language of the original text.

6.    Multinationals with decentralized translation services

This is the trend followed by some large multinationals. Decentralizing translation services to local subsidiaries offers several advantages. Local subsidiaries have direct contact with the local market, which means that they can negotiate prices locally, which will generally lead to cost savings. 

Like the strategy we suggest in this blog, by making local subsidiaries responsible for translation we also make them responsible for its quality. The local subsidiaries will have the necessary human capital to carry out internal control of translations, which will have a direct impact on their quality.

The decentralisation of the translation service may imply a lack of coordination and consistency in some decisions affecting translation. To avoid this, it is important for the parent company to establish protocols for the translation process that must be complied with in all its subsidiaries.

In conclusion, involving your distributors or subsidiaries abroad in the translation process can significantly improve its quality. This is a challenge that can make us stand out from the competition in foreign markets. It is an investment that can have a high return and that only some companies make.

José Gambín's picture
José Gambín

José Gambín holds a 5-year degree in Biology from the University of Valencia (Spain) and a 4-year degree in Translation and Interpreting from the University of Granada (Spain). He has worked as a freelance translator, in-house translator, desktop publisher and project manager. From 2002, he is a founding member of AbroadLlink and currently works as Marketing and Sales Manager.

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