Note: This blog entry was originally written in Japanese in 2019 for our Japanese website. We used our machine translation platform Translation Designer to translate the entry into English and to post-edit the output for readers outside of Japan. The original Japanese entry can be found here.

There are two types of translations: all-new translation and updated translation.

All-new translation is a translation work from scratch of all sentences that have never been translated. On the other hand, updated translation deals with sentences that have been translated in the past that are revised or updated. For these, changes and corrections are made by word, sentence, or paragraph. So, in this translation work, you only translate the parts that have been changed instead of the entire document.

Updated translation is a method often used for documents such as manuals, user instruction, and rules. Instead of modifying the entire material, these types of documents tend to have partial updates of the original text and only need translation for those parts.

The reason why we touch on updated translations this time is that mistakes and troubles are likely to occur in them, and they tend to take time and cost more for the amount of changes. Through this article, we would like to share the problems that often occur in updated translations and how to solve them.

Case #1: Am I getting ripped off?

A common misconception about an estimation for updated translation is that it is easy to think that the translation fee will be charged only for the changed parts.

For example, in the case of Japanese to English translation, you might think that if you change only one term, or two characters, in the Japanese text, you will only pay for those two characters. However, in English, it doesn't work to modify only the changed term. It might not make sense unless the surrounding words or the entire sentence are rewritten. In other words, translators should review the entire sentence, not just where it changed, to see if there are any errors or unnaturalness. Therefore, even if it is an update of one term, or two characters, it is necessary to include the whole sentence in the character count for the translation fee.

Case #2: What part has changed?

A popular tool for updated translation is Microsoft Office Word. The reason is that if the document track changes, you can see at a glance where a change or update took place. Translation companies carry out estimation and translation work based on the file with markups provided from the customer. Therefore, it is recognized that parts where markups remain is the translation work target.

However, when a customer checks the original document, multiple people in charge may read it or people who read it may change. This means that other than parts where markups remain, there may be changes and updates that have already been applied. In that case, the updated parts may become unclear. So, when requesting with a Word file, it is recommended to mark the changed parts with a certain symbol or track changes.

Case #3: Inconsistent with the existing translations

Most of the documents that are subject to updated translation are large-scale in volume. Especially for such large documents, it is desirable for customers to have the usage of terms and expressions also consistent in the translated text.

Of course, translators and reviewers who check translations proceed the work while making sure there are no inconsistencies in the expressions. However, there are limits to how much can be done with manuals translated using Word, especially if the volume is large-scale. There is even a problem that it takes a long time to confirm, leading to higher costs. It is inevitable that the more updates you make, the more inconsistencies you will get.

CAT tools can solve everything!

CAT tools are computer-assisted translation tools such as SDL TRADOS and memoQ. By translating with CAT tools, you can record the original text and the translated text in pairs for each segment. This paired database is called a translation memory.

If you use a translation memory, or TM, it is possible to calculate the fees mentioned in Case #1 according to the degree of change. Not all characters in the sentence where changes occurred will be counted. Instead, it automatically calculates how much the original sentence has changed and how much workload will be applied to a translator.

Also, even for Case #2, if you have a TM, you can mechanically check where and how much change has been made in an instant. As a result, you can avoid overlooking the changed parts to be translated, and there is no need for customers to check the updates in the documents and submit them to translation companies. Furthermore, by using a TM, it becomes possible to perform update translations on various file formats such as Excel and PowerPoint. It's good terms for both sides.

The same applies to Case #3. If you use CAT tools, you can use a TM in which the original text and the translated text are paired, so you can check if there are similar expressions during update translation work. Therefore, even if the old version is huge or if the updated version has been revised many times, it is possible to make the document consistent. Even if you have already translated the original document without using CAT tools such as Word, you can create a TM to prepare for the next revision. Creating a TM requires the work of manually matching the original text with the translated text using a CAT tool and registering it, so it will definitely take time and money. (For examples of how to create a TM, check out our past blog entry of Utilizing TMs — Manage Your Translation Assets Part Two: How to Create TMs.) However, the subsequent work will be much easier and more accurate, so why not take this opportunity to introduce CAT tools and try out update translations.

Kawamura's services

Kawamura International not only provides translation services utilizing your TMs but can also create TMs for your company. Utilize translation assets such as glossaries and TMs for achieving high quality and cost reduction.

From creating your translation assets to managing them, we can offer various support necessary to streamline your translation work. Please feel free to contact us for translation requests or if you have any questions about translation services in general. Kawamura is certified with ISO 17100, the international standard for translation services, and ISO 27001 (ISMS), the international standard for information security.