by Domitille L., Reviewer/Lead Linguist, e2f Silicon Valley

Consistency is key to provide an accurate and clear translation.

There are 2 main types of consistency issues:

  1. Translating the same source word with different target words (when context and meaning are identical). This leads to errors, bugs and confusion.
  2. Maintaining the inconsistency of the source in the target. It is important to know that English is more flexible than French, especially when it comes to syntax. Just because the English source takes liberties with consistency doesn’t mean it’s ok to do so in French.

Check project instructions, TM, 100% matches and other relevant references to select the most commonly used term/structure/format in a given context, then stick to whatever you chose. If source and/or references are themselves incoherent, create a Q&A entry to notify the client of source text concerns and explain your choices.

Different parts of the translation can suffer from a lack of consistency.

A. Terminology
Common words can have several translations. As a general rule, the hierarchy for terminology is 1) client’s specific instructions for the project, 2) glossary, 3) TM. When in doubt, create a Q&A entry to notify and briefly explain your choice.
company => entreprise, société
consultant => consultant, conseiller
customer service => service clients, service à la clientèle
device => appareil, dispositif, périphérique
email => courriel, courrier électronique, message électronique, e-mail
employee => employé, collaborateur
manager => responsable, manager, directeur
newsletter => bulletin d’informations, newsletter

Capitalization (caps) should be coherent, even if the source sometimes isn’t.
le service client/le Service client
le Bureau des réclamations/le bureau des reclamations

Gender: either use masculine throughout (i.e the default choice) OR the feminine in brackets, but not both

B. Syntax:
Titles in the table of contents must match all other occurrences. If possible, choose a consistent construction for titles: all nominal groups, all complete sentences or all verbal groups, EVEN IF the source isn’t always coherent.
Chapter 1: Preventing X; Chapter 2: Evaluation of Y
=> Chapitre 1 : Prévenir X ; Chapitre 2 : Évaluer Y

Bullet lists have the same issue, choose either infinitive, conjugated verb OR noun, not a mix of everything.

Infinitive vs imperative: linguists may have a hard time choosing between infinitive and 2nd person imperative cases. English only has one form, but both can express order, a piece of advice, or an instruction in French. There are slight differences that can help a linguist select the better form.

The infinitive is more neutral and is often used for safety warnings, technical indications (like in IT), short instructions, general user instructions, signs, and recipes.
Prière de ne pas fumer.
Appuyer sur le bouton OFF pour éteindre l’appareil.
Ajouter 150 gr de sucre et deux oeufs.
Défense de stationner

The imperative is closer to the reader. It works best for instructions to be followed personally, in forms where one has to answer precise questions, like a job application.
Décrivez votre parcours universitaire.

Again, the point is to choose one form and stick to it. Due to software segmentation and format, the consistency issue may not be spotted, so make sure you check the reference source documents/PDFs.
Example of inconsistent use:
Cliquez sur Connexion. Remplir le champ Adresse électronique.

C. Format:
Apostrophes should be all curly in French unless specific instruction in the fiche project or style guide. If there are no specific instructions and the TM has straight apostrophes or a mix of both, use curly and prepare a Q&A to notify the client of your choice.

Bullet lists: due to software segmentation and format, they do not always display clearly, so make sure you reference the source documents/PDFs.

As a general rule, if the sentence in the bullet is a complete sentence, it should start with a cap and end with a period. If the bullet continues the sentence started before the colon, there should be no cap and it should end with a semi colon. The last bullet ends with a period. If the sentence is not introduced by a colon, then each bullet starts with a cap and ends with a period.

UI options: the choice by default is ENG (FR), unless otherwise specified, and all UIs within a project should follow the same format.

Tools can help.

There are many tools linguists and project managers can use to help ensure consistency across large projects requiring several translators or long-term projects with several moving parts.

  1. SR32 allows you take notes of terms/structures that you feel require more consistency and locate them easily.
  2. Skype is great for big projects requiring several translators, where the consistency task becomes very heavy at the review stage. Therefore, it is helpful for the overall quality to communicate with fellow linguists. Create a Skype conversation with all linguists of the project, that way everyone is kept in the loop and can reference previous discussions and project managers can follow along and share relevant information with the client and to other linguistic teams.
  3. Google linguist Q&A to review it before translating/reviewing.
  4. Private Facebook groups also allow a team of linguists to work together virtually. For more about this method, check out Julien’s post Effective collaboration on translation projects using Facebook

These are some key methods e2f uses to identify and maintain consistency. What do you recommend? Comment to let us know!