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Four Reasons to Translate Similar Texts Together

It’s not uncommon for a translation buyer to have two similar texts that require translation. For example, the first text can be an operation manual for a basic version of a product while the second one is a manual for an extended version of the same product. In this scenario, translating both texts at once may cost you more than translating them individually (i.e. sending the first one for translation, receiving the translation, and then sending the second one). Some of the similar phrases in these two texts, the so called internal fuzzy matches, may be slightly different and won’t be recognized as internal repetitions, which are eligible for a discount. As a result, you will pay full rate for these matches despite a very high degree of similarity. Suppose, you have two sentences below, #1 in the first text and #2 in the second one:

#1: I am a very good swimmer

and

#2: I am a very good swimmer.

The only difference is in the dot, which requires little translation effort. If you send both texts to your translation services company that charges you $0.15 per source word, you’ll thus pay for 6 words in each sentence, i.e. 6 x $0.15 + 6 x $0.15 = $1.8.

However, if you translate just the first text, create a translation memory after translation, and then analyze the second text against this TM, the sentence with a dot will appear as a highly similar fuzzy match (99% degree of similarity). This kind of a match is eligible for a significant discount, say 50%. You will therefore pay 6 x $0.15 + 6 x $0.075 = $1.35. Clearly, the second option makes sense economically, but is it really the path to top quality? In fact, when quality is of outmost importance, it might be wise to send the two texts for translation together. Here are four reasons why:

  1. Context is everything for translation professionals. Providing two texts for translation at once makes a huge difference in this respect. The ability to see terms in different contexts makes it easier to understand them and pick translations that will ideally fit most situations. To see how important the context is, try to send a word with multiple meanings such as “hub” to your translator—you’ll be very likely to receive a request for more context. You might argue that the same result can be achieved by simply providing the second text for reference. While this does help, it’s not as effective as when you send both texts for translation. A translator is more deeply involved with the text being translated than with any reference materials.
  2. Needless to say, you get a higher degree of translation consistency both at the term level and sentence level. It’s much simpler to maintain consistency when you translate two similar texts in a single job as compared to processing them as two separate jobs with a time gap in between. You also have the assurance that a single translation team will handle both texts. If you send the second text after translating the first one, however, the original translation vendor might be unavailable, which might force you to place this second project with someone else. And the new team will almost inevitably create inconsistency because a new translator is tempted to “improve” the original stuff.
  3. If your translator spots any errors in the first translation while working on the second text, correcting errors is extremely easy. It’s quite common for a linguist doing the second translation to realize that a previous translation was inaccurate. If the first translation is already on its way to the end users, making this kind of correction can be brutally hard or costly. Receiving a call from your translator asking you to recall the previous translation due to an error can be a little disappointing, to say the least. Translating both texts together makes this problem irrelevant since your linguist can make improvements to the first translation immediately and without causing any disruptions to your business affairs.
  4. Finally, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t get a discount for similar phrases at all. An intelligent translator is likely to recognize that two texts are similar and reduce the price. For example, we return this kind of savings to our clients by lowering the translation rate, e.g. from $0.15 per source word down to $0.13, or simply by providing a straightforward discount.

Summary

When you have two similar texts to translate, you can either send them for translation individually or together depending on what your priority is—a lower price or top quality. If you prioritize low costs over quality, translating them individually can help reduce translation costs because as soon as the first one gets translated, the internal fuzzy matches eligible for a discount will become visible in the second one. When exceptional quality is vital, however, providing two texts for translation at once can be a better option since you might pay more, but you are more likely to receive a high-quality translation.

By the way, there is also a highly controversial way to make the internal fuzzy matches visible before actually translating the project. You can pre-translate (segment) the first text, create a “translation memory,” and analyze the second text against this TM. As a result, the internal fuzzy matches will appear in the analysis and you can try to request a quote from your translator based on this analysis. This is not an industry practice, though, and I can’t recommend using it.

What is your experience with translating similar texts? Do you feel it’s best to handle them as a single batch?

One comment

  • Cassy says:

    As for me, I could really say that I learn from your post. Simply because those four reasons were unknown to me before. Thanks! Nice one.

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About the Author

Roman Mironov
Roman Mironov
CEO & Founder

As the founder of Velior, Roman has had the privilege of being able to turn his passion for languages into a business. He has over 15 years of experience in the translation industry. Roman has helped dozens of clients increase sales by making their products appealing for speakers of other languages.