Translation – The 5 mistakes non-profits make

Le Bon Usage Grevisse

Charitable organizations who wish to provide content in both official languages are faced with two main challenges: cost and process. To get you started (or back) on the right track, here are a few key mistakes to avoid when planning your translation strategy.

  • Not checking your languages of service policy (or not having one) – Such a policy can be as broad or as specific as you wish. Depending on your constituency and your resources, you may opt to be a fully bilingual organization – which has implications beyond the obvious translation requirements:  web development and hosting, CRM tools, and even staffing. You may instead opt to offer only specific products or services in both official languages, or to operate on an “as needed” basis. You may also want to consider offering some services and products in languages other than English or French.
  • Not keeping track – If you have not been tracking your translation flow and expenses, start now. Very simple yet powerful tracking systems can be set up in Excel or Access at very little cost.
  • Not hiring a professional – You would not simply trust your accounting to a staff member or volunteer who happens to be “very good with numbers”, would you? And you would probably not be content with a website or newsletter full of typos and errors in English? You should apply the same standards to translation. When you rely on amateurs, not only do you get amateurish results, you deprive yourself of the real added value a professional translator can provide. Whether you bring someone onto your team or prefer to deal with an external provider, hire a pro.
  • Not planning ahead – Translation requests of any size involve at least the following steps: research and scoping, translation, editing and proofreading. Larger projects require coordination as well. The time to plan (and budget) for translation is right at the onset of your project. If you are unsure about the amount of time it will take to translate your annual report, for example, talk to a professional translator to set up appropriate timelines in your critical path, and you will avoid potentially expensive, last minute scrambles.
  • Not giving feedback: By all means, tell your translator if you prefer one term over another, if something just doesn’t seem right, and ask a lot of questions until you are confident in your product. A good translator will always work with you to be true to your message and intent, while keeping you away from errors. And of course, if you are happy with their service, don’t forget to let them know that either.