Translating boxes of evidence

Translating for the police – a large-scale project

Our client is a police force.

They needed evidence for a criminal trial translated quickly from English into Simplified Chinese, and later into Traditional Chinese for Hong Kong.

The evidence was provided in many different formats – from police notebooks to mobile phone messages to hours of interview transcripts.

The translation needed to be accurate, with UK-specific concepts expressed in meaningful Chinese and with names and terms used consistently across a large volume of documents.

What challenge did we take on?

  • The evidence amounted to 500,000 English words. These needed to be translated into Simplified Chinesein under 8 weeks. The deadline was determined by the trial date so there was no flexibility in this regard.
  • The translation needed to be consistent. Many proper nouns and unusual concepts had no standard translation in Chinese – often there would be two or more equivalent Chinese terms in common use. All of the translators and editors who worked on the project had to use the same Chinese word for a specific English term.
  • Some of the content proved quite sensitive, as it related to activities that are strictly prohibited in China but legal in the UK. Our project management team in Beijing advised our account manager in London that anyone handling the content in China would be liable to prosecution. Since we follow the best practice of having translations handled by in-country linguists, this posed a problem.
  • On completion of the Simplified Chinese version, our client discovered that a Traditional Chinese version was needed (for Hong Kong). There was less time and a smaller budget available for this second translation than for the first.

What did we do?

To ensure the deadline was met, we split the translation into batches of varying sizes. These ranged from 7,000 words to 98,000 words. These were then distributed between a team of 16 translators who worked 7 days a week to deliver the translations on time.

A team of 7 editors reviewed the translated files to ensure the accuracy and fluency and to check UK-specific concepts were translated in ways that were easily comprehensible to Chinese readers. A single proofreader then read through all the batches to ensure consistency of style and coherence.

Content that contravened Chinese laws was translated and edited by members of our pool of native speakers of Chinese based in the UK, with the remainder handled by our team in China.

How did we complete the additional work so quickly?

We applied a 50% discount to our regular translation rate for the Traditional Chinese version (for Hong Kong) and completed it in half the time taken for the Simplified Chinese version.

We achieved this by first converting the Simplified Chinese documents into Traditional characters. Then we had the results edited by Hong Kong editors to change the vocabulary and style into that used in Hong Kong.

Although there are significant differences between the written Chinese used in Mainland China and Hong Kong, the two are essentially the same language. This process results in a solid quality of output when budget is limited.

What tools did we use?

Before commencing translation, we used Translation Memory (TM) software to extract all repeated terms in the documents.

These were translated and the translated terms then imported automatically into all the English files to ensure consistency.

What was the outcome?

Thanks to the robust process and the commitment of the many translators and editors involved in China and the UK, the clients’ deadlines for both the Simplified and Traditional versions were met while ensuring quality and an accurate, consistent final output.

Situations like criminal trials are just one of the many times when our clients need large volumes of translation completed very quickly.

Thankfully, we have developed processes which enable us to meet these requirements while retaining every stage of the quality control process.

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