Translation Brief Template

Ordering professional translations when you’ve never done it before can be daunting – one of those “I don’t even know what I don’t know” situations. If you’re looking for your translation agency, here are a few tips. But before you send that email, here’s what you might want to put in it.

What is a translation brief and why is it important?

What is a translation brief? Essentially, it is a document or email that contains information about the content you want to have translated, why you want to translate it and who it’s intended for.

Translation isn’t always swapping out a word in one language for the exact match in another. There are elements that can’t be translated, references or jokes that don’t work in other cultures, and other necessary adaptations that mean your text can’t just be ‘the same, but in a different language’. There are often questions that the translators must answer and changes that must be made throughout the process.

A translation brief is essentially extra information that helps your language service provider (LSP) to make these decisions when the answer might not quite be black and white. The more information included in a translation brief, the better equipped your translator will be. This means they can more easily translate the text in a way that perfectly fits your vision and expectations.

Including this extra information can also help your LSP to know that you’re paying the right price and getting the right services. For example, if your text is going to appear in print, we recommend a 6-eye approach. This means your text goes through an extra stage of expert revision before it’s published, to make sure everything is perfect. Knowing the purpose of the translation also helps your translator to know what scope for creativity is available.

It can also save you time, as writing a translation brief reduces the likelihood of you needing revisions or changes to your translation later. The end product is more likely to align with your expectations first time round, because your translators and revisers have a better idea of what to look for from the get-go. It might also help the translator to anticipate problems that you might not otherwise have known about or spotted, which also means a better-quality translation overall.

If it sounds complicated, or you’re not sure where to start, you can always ask your LSP what it is that they will need to know for your project. Here is a list of suggestions and why they will help the overall quality of your translation.

What to include:

  • Number of files for translation, file format, volume and description of content type
    These might seem obvious, but they do warrant a mention here. The word count for translation will help your LSP to calculate the cost of your project more accurately and how long it will take, and a description of the content helps them to know straight away which translator to choose for the job, and which services you will require. If your project involves transcription or subtitling, it would help for the LSP to know how long your video is.
  • Language combinations, including language variants, and target audience
    Make sure you include every language combination required (which language the original file is in, and which languages you want it to be translated into). You should also include information about where your target audience is based, as this will inform your LSP on which language variant to use. For example, if you’re translating into English, we’ll need to know whether you want US English, UK English or any other variant.
  • Purpose of the text
    Do you want the translation to inform its audience, to entertain them or to persuade them? What’s the central message you hope to send with the translated text? It will help the translator to make the right decisions during the translation process if they know the goal.
  • Technical considerations
    It will also save time for your translator to know from the start how you want them to handle technical aspects. For example, do you want currencies and measurements to be converted into the ones used in the target region? If you’re translating into a language that uses a different alphabet, should any names or proper nouns be transliterated?
  • Reference material: style guides and glossaries, or previous translations
    Including reference material such as style guides or termbases will help the translator to choose words that keep your brand voice and any corporate wording consistent. If you don’t have these guides handy, even any previous translations into the target language might help if they’re available to be shared. If you have worked with the LSP before, let them know whether you want translation memory to be used, as it can also help achieve consistency.
  • Formatting and layout requirements
    It could also be important to note whether there are any layout requirements, as this could influence word counts or character counts. French translations can be up to 20% longer than their English originals, and German translations might even be 40% longer, so it’s important that the translators know whether there are any spatial limitations. What’s more, if there are any pictures or graphics that work alongside the text, including them will give the translator a better understanding of any descriptions or references to these pictures.

Which projects benefit most from translation briefs?

A translation brief can save you time and money on any project. However, there are certain kinds of projects where these benefits are especially meaningful.

  • Large-scale translation projects
    Using a translation brief is even more important for large-scale translation projects. If you need to make any revisions or changes, these will take longer to implement in larger projects as there are likely to be more instances of a word that needs to be changed. Therefore, avoiding these changes from the start means more time saved. A large translation project might also mean that there are multiple translators working on the same project if the deadline is especially tight, so providing a translation brief means that every translator has the same information and the LSP can ensure that each text flows smoothly together as one voice. If your text is the start of a large translation project, it’s good to let your LSP know this, so that they can plan and make sure you get the same translator each time if you’re happy with them. They might even be able to offer translation memory discounts for larger projects.
  • When it’s your first time working with a particular LSP
    The first translation project you place with an LSP should probably include the most detailed brief as both parties get to know each other. After that, you probably won’t need to provide as much information every time as the translation provider will be more familiar with your business and your needs.
  • If you require creative translation or transcreation
    If translating your file requires extra creativity, then it’s probably best to include a translation brief for the translator to make sure their creation lines up with your expectations. The types of translation that might fall under this category would be marketing translations, video translations or any other file that might include jokes, cultural references or advertising strategies.

How to write a translation brief

Preparing a translation brief is easier than you might think – it doesn’t have to be anything fancy. You can include the information in an email or in a simple Word document. We’ve included a translation brief example here to help you. Your LSP will ensure that everyone who requires access to the document has it and will limit access to those people only.

If your next source text has a similar purpose or contains similar content, it’s unlikely that your brief will need to be as extensive the next time you commission a translation project. Ensure that the source files and word counts are updated, highlight any other changes from your previous translation brief and you’re good to go! It’s a small amount of effort, and it could be helpful for multiple translation projects in the future.

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