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Translation Triage - How to Save Time and Money

Translation Triage - What You Need To Know

Ever find yourself with so much foreign language content that you can't make a decision on where to begin with translation? And, how do you begin when you're not even sure what you have in front of you? In the medical field, this is called 'triage' - the assignment of degrees of urgency to wounds or illnesses to decide the order of treatment of a large number of patients or casualties. At Syntes, we perform triage on material - sorting and prioritizing - which helps make a seemingly insurmountable task quite manageable. Starting with a triage can also save time and money by first finding out what you have before deciding whether to translate it and even the level of quality that is needed depending on its use. So, what is involved and what steps need to be considered? Here are some answers to commonly asked questions about this process.

How is this kind of triage most commonly used? A common use of this process is for legal discovery, the pre-trial phase in a lawsuit, in which each party can obtain evidence from the other side, including requests to produce records and other documentation to support one’s case. Other frequent uses of this type of triage include sifting through material to: respond to a large request for proposal, decide whether or not to even submit a proposal, explore the soundness of a particular acquisition, support an ongoing investigation or government surveillance, in addition to many other possibilities.

How does this process work exactly? What is involved? This type of triage generally involves: summarizing, sorting, prioritizing, and determining next steps. So, first, the linguist will provide a summary of the type and general subject matter of the written or even audio/video material. For example, this is a purchase agreement, a past due notice, a letter of complaint, a medical bill, etc. These materials are then sorted into categories, depending on what the client is looking for and needs. This can then help in prioritizing what to translate and what level of quality or completeness is needed based on how critical the material is and how it will be used.

What kind of preparation and information is needed? It is important to discuss the project with your language services provider (LSP), so that a good project plan can be put together based on how much material there is, what type of turnaround is needed, what specific information the linguist should be looking for, and how to best prioritize and categorize that information. This will also allow for any linguistic preparation or research prior to starting the document triage and help to determine what resources (e.g. number of linguists) may be required. Can this kind of triage be done remotely or does a linguist always have to be present? It is often very efficient to have a linguist on site to go though the materials together with the client. The linguist can skim the materials, provide a brief summary of the document or certain passages as necessary, and then work with the client to categorize and prioritize material as needed. This kind of triage can also be done remotely, provided the project specifications are very clear regarding what types of information the linguist should be looking for, how this information should be categorized, etc. It may, of course, also be necessary to arrange some conference calls to field questions and discuss next steps. What is sight-translation? Sight translation, which is often used during an on-site triage, involves reading written text in the source language and then providing an impromptu oral translation into the target language in the presence of the end user. It can be difficult and mentally taxing because it has to be done on the spot and there is no time to process or think about what is being conveyed like there is with traditional written translation. Therefore, sight translation is generally used for smaller amounts of material or for certain key passages in a document.

What are the next steps to be considered? After the initial triage, it would need to be determined what takes priority and needs a fully quality controlled translation with edit, what can be translated only without the additional edit step, when would a quick summary or gisting of the material suffice, and what material does not need any translation at all. What is summarizing versus gisting? These terms are often used interchangeably. Summarizing though usually refers to a more brief description of what the written or audio/video material is about or what sections contain the general information the user is seeking. Gisting involves reading documents or listening to audio/video recordings for the purpose of providing a synopsis of the contents to render a general sense of the original without emphasis on details or stylistic elegance.

When is it best to do a fully quality controlled translation of pre-sorted material? If it is determined that the material will be for external, especially official, use like for an exhibit in a trial, a contract that all parties will sign, or a formal proposal, then the material should be translated with a thorough edit to provide the highest level of quality possible. In what instances might a translation without edit suffice? If the material will be for internal use only, then it may be appropriate to do a translation without edit keeping in mind that while the full meaning will be conveyed, it may not be as smooth as it would be if it were edited by another linguist. An example of how this might be used is if there is a request for proposal, translation without edit can be an efficient way to determine what the requirements for the proposal are. Then, once the formal proposal is prepared, it would then be necessary to both translate and have a second linguist thoroughly edit the content before it is submitted to ensure the quality is the best it can be. When would a certificate of translation be needed? Again, if the translation will be used in a more official context, like for an exhibit for a trial, having a signed/notarized letter certifying the quality of the translation is often needed or useful. As this post shows, this type of triage can remove the often overwhelming burden of sorting through mounds of foreign language content to proceed with important legal or business decisions. So, next time you are faced with piles of material in other languages, consider this kind of triage as an efficient and effective means of organizing your legal or business information no matter what the language.

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