Have you ever borrowed someone else's notes to try to study for an exam or understand a topic? You probably found that it was more difficult to fully grasp a concept when using someone else's thoughts. You might have spent a great deal of time trying to navigate new abbreviations, note-taking styles and the nuances of the author--and missed a key concept. Translated materials can have the same uncomfortable feel to the Limited English Proficient (LEP) reader when the source document is not written with an LEP audience in mind.
Experienced translation professionals know that sculpting written content into another language is best accomplished with documents written with the understanding that they will eventually be translated into other languages. Here are some tips on creating content ready for translation:
- Use numbered or bulleted lists rather than lengthy paragraphs of text.
- Avoid using slang. It will not often translate well between languages and will date your materials when used in the future.
- Break up lengthy phrases.
- Avoid embedding text in graphics when possible. Embedded text requires that the graphics are recreated when translated, resulting in a higher cost. When possible, it's better to place text labels under graphics rather than inside of them.
- Limit the use of screen shots unless you want to have those re-created and translated as well.
- Try and use location and cultural neutral images. This includes ambiguous ethnicity for people and locales that can relate to many countries or areas.
- Leave white space in the English files to allow for text expansion when the file is translated.
- Concise, straightforward content is best. Plus, translation is billed per word, so short simple text will also save you money in translation.
- If reading level is a concern, keep this in mind when writing the English copy. It is very difficult to translate materials into a different reading level than the source copy.
Following these simple guidelines for translation will allow your LEP audience to focus on the important things you have to say.