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Planning is Key to Localization

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” And he was absolutely right; anyone who’s ended up on the wrong side of a poorly-planned project knows that. Since you’re reading this blog, you know that there’s a lot more to localization than tossing some words into Google Translate. Translation is actually a complex, multifaceted process. While many clients find this out the hard way, and end up frustrated, you don’t need to be one of them. If you take time to prepare your translation project upfront, you’ll find going global to be a much smoother experience.

The Translation Checklist

Failing to properly prepare your translation project might land you a starring role in your translator’s nightmares. A lack of key information can result in missed deadlines, delays, and insomnia for everyone involved. So, to help ensure your translator gets a full night’s sleep, double-check that you:

  • Finalized Your Texts: Before sending anything out for translation, figure out exactly what you need done: finish your edits, update your logos, gather the documents, and cut out anything that might be unnecessary. While it’s tempting to translate everything word for word, that’s rarely a wise decision. Even the least chatty companies have websites cluttered with out-of-date press releases and irrelevant information. Don’t waste your translator’s time on those things you won’t need!
  • Cut the Jargon: While you might be tempted to translate terms like ‘tenure,’ ‘putative’, or ‘injunction’, technical language should be removed from translation-ready documents. Using industry-specific words, especially when simpler alternatives exist, often leads to confusion. So, unless your translator specializes in that specific area, it’s best to remove region or occupation-specific terms. And, of course, make sure to cut out those clichés.
  • Were Clear About the Languages Involved: Make sure that all parties are clear about the project’s source and target language(s). If you need documents translated into a specific dialect, for example, that’s something you need to specify up front. Not doing so might lead to repeated translations, increased costs, and hair pulling.
    Determined Your Target Audience: It’s important to know who you’re trying to reach. Different regions often need different dialects. Someone in urban Tokyo might respond to a certain phrase differently from someone in rural Osaka, for example. By figuring out your audience beforehand, you improve your chances of getting your point across.
  • Cleaned Up Your Source Materials: If your paperwork is smudged, torn, or covered in chicken scratch, you need to rewrite it. If it’s not legible, how can you expect your translator to use it? Unless your handwriting is neater than typed font, it might be better to convert all your documents to a digital format before requesting translation. This will also make it easier to keep track of, and allow both you and your translator to easily keep copies of the material.
  • Pinned Down Your Deadline: Be clear about when you need a project completed. Don’t tell your translator that a project is ‘no rush’ if you need it tomorrow. Also, be sure to avoid using subjective terms like ‘soon’ or ‘sometime in the next month or two.’ Interpretations of those statements vary wildly from person to person, let alone culture to culture.
  • Sorted Your Documents: Classify your documents according to type, subject, or importance and be sure to label any legal documents. This allows your translator to properly assign tasks and seek any needed outside expertise.
  • Gave Ample Support: Whether it’s due to unclear requirements, or company-specific terms, your translator is likely to need your help. To minimize interruptions, provide your vendors with a copy of your handbook, commonly used terms, and access to important materials. Make certain that you’re easy-to-contact and available for any impromptu consultations.
  • Decided on a Final Deliverable: What do you need when the project’s completed? A PDF? An Excel sheet? Tell your vendor where and how you plan on using the translated text. This might help save you money on staging and finishing costs. If you can, provide the translator with an example of completed work.
  • Outlined Any Extra Requirements: While most companies are glad to format and publish your materials, you should request any auxiliary services at the start. If you don’t, you might end up stuck with an unfinished project, or worse, a set of unbudgeted charges.


Translation is all about communication. Communication between you and your client and communication between you and your translation vendor. To minimize problems, you need to take time beforehand and carefully plan your project. Always make sure you know what languages, materials, and services you need from any given translator. If you jump right into the deep end and send out a half-baked scope of work, you might end up with a project that’s unfinished and poor quality.

Swedish Translation Services is a company owned by Tess Whitty, a freelance translator (English-Swedish), proofreader, editor, copy writer, localizer and entrepreneur.

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