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The Challenges Posed by Plurilingual Translation Projects

Translating is a challenge in itself, as expressing the same meaning or conveying the same emotion in two different languages can be a very intricate task. However, this task becomes even more challenging when a text must be translated into several different languages.

For project managers, plurilingual projects pose a more complex challenge than bilingual ones for several reasons. On one hand, it is easier to find translators for certain language combinations, such as English – Spanish, than linguists who specialize in less frequent combinations— especially if these include languages with a limited active population. This difficulty affects project delivery time because depending on the language and varying availability of resources, there may be different deadlines.

On the other hand, when assigning a project, “translation assets” are made available to the linguists, such as translation memories, reference materials, style guides and glossaries (term bases). Since not everyone uses all these translation resources to the same extent, it is necessary to allocate more time for a longer review process at the end of the project in order to ensure consistency in the use of these “assets” across the different languages.

Apart from the consistency mentioned previously, the “differences” that separate a good “localization” from a simple “translation” also must be respected. In other words, there are languages and cultures that have certain peculiarities, and for which not everything needs to be “consistent.”

Another of the challenges posed by projects to be translated into several languages is the final format of the translation and the degree of work, which is often disparate, required for each of the languages. Middle Eastern languages such as Arabic and Hebrew, for example, are written from right to left. This implies an extra step when recreating the final design and once again, an increased project delivery time.

As we can see, delivery time is one of the variables impacted in multilingual projects. For some languages, the time required is usually considerably greater. One of the possible solutions to this challenge is to arrange multiple deliveries in increments with the client, beginning first with the least challenging languages, and then the other languages.