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  • ILS-NY Staff

From Gibberish to Trial Exhibits: Top Tips for Prosecutors Working with Translation Companies

Swamped with data in foreign languages, strict deadlines and tight budgets?

Whether you are dealing with a case of labor law violations, or prosecuting gang members and drug traffickers, if you are dealing with foreign language speakers, chances are that pretrial discovery will come up with significant evidence in at least one foreign language (or 30).

How you tackle the challenge of quickly reviewing large amounts of data in foreign languages—within budget and on time—can be the difference between having or lacking a defining piece of evidence.

And crucially, who assists you during this process may be the difference between shedding thousands of dollars and juggling numerous AI tools to no avail and optimizing your budget and time efficiently.


How can you possibly translate 10,000 pages in a week?

You don't, unless you already know that those are the exact pages you need or will indeed be presenting those 10,000 pages of evidence in court. As daunting it is to have a stack of documents in languages that you don’t understand towering over you, this is not the time to request English translations. If anyone promises to complete this much work without asking any questions first, that’s a red flag.

Large, bulky records of text in foreign languages are a beautiful sight to any translation business. But if your time is of the essence, and you need to maintain fiscal responsibility, the first step is not to translate it all, but to narrow down the material for translation by trimming unimportant sections, repetitions, and identifying the pertinent portions prior to diving into the realm of language translations. How do you do that when you don’t know what’s on the documents to begin with, you may ask? We will get to that soon.

If your discovery team handed you digital media-based evidence, such as voice and texts, email chains, social media posts, etc., taking this time to regroup and meet with your potential project managers for translation to share more about your ultimate needs with the project, could save you approximately 65% in translation costs and decrease the timeline for completion by over 210%. This is because the way that most digital evidence is documented and generated results in exponential amounts of duplicated data.

Whether your pile of gibberish consists of contracts, personal letters or news articles, because of the way translation projects are tackled, the more your project managers know about your case early on the better. A great project manager will use these insights and contextual information to their advantage and yours. They will use this information to select the best candidates for the work, carefully and selectively brief their translators, build glossaries and ensure consistency and efficiency from the get-go, ultimately smoothing out the translation process and making it much more efficient, and maybe even finishing below budget.

So, the next time someone dumps a terabyte of data on your desk and desperately asks for

everything to be translated, remember that the first step is to take a step back.


How do we know what is in the documents before it is even translated?

We previously stated that the first step to complete bulky translations is to trim the fat. By identifying the pertinent portions, meaning what is truly needed for your case, and excluding duplicated content and repetitions, you will narrow down most of your material. Sometimes, all we need are key words, names or dates to identify those pages, but other times nobody really knows what is in the documents to begin with, and that is when our

experts come in.

Our trained linguists summarize the material, which can be done at a surprisingly fast rate, whether we are dealing with recordings or text. We then forward those summaries to the prosecuting team to identify the portions needed for full translation. Our translators start working on said translations while our experts continue summarizing the unfiltered material, implementing any new findings from the attorneys into their summarization process. This approach results in an expedited and yet incredibly thorough translation process.

In our experience, many of our prosecuting clients get to this step somewhere along the way, usually towards the end of the project, likely as a last resort to meeting looming court deadlines. Unfortunately, at this late stage, having their paralegals and legal assistants try to narrow down the material yields very little savings, if any at all. If the project has been underway for a few days, chances are that our team has already developed glossaries, translation memories (if CAT compatible), and our project managers have likely identified patterns in the documents and translations that help them to detect duplicated content at a much faster rate.

Even when there is reason to believe that every page is unique, hidden duplicates may emerge once the translation work has commenced, and this usually happens during the editing process. A good team will realize this before the work is fully completed and let you know so that you can decide if you want 100 identical documents to be translated. Obviously, most people do not find it necessary to pay for the same translation x100 times, and at ILS-NY, it is our policy to advise our clients as soon as large duplicated content emerges. We even have dedicated project managers that routinely check the progress of our numerous translators, precisely to gather this information and intervene at every stage of the translation process to mitigate repeat translations. However, many translation

companies won’t give you the heads up, not only because it isn’t their responsibility to look out for your financial interests, but because these patterns and flagged items would not make it to a project manager’s desk on time to intervene before the project is fully completed, as it would require a manager at every stage of the process.


So what is the secret to successfully executing this intricate translation process, and staying fairly competitive?

Our staff and translators’ backgrounds. Most of our linguists have solid experience in fields such as law enforcement, and are experts at listening to some of the most difficult audios and wiretaps there are, and generating accurate translations under pressure. Our project managers have a great deal of experience specifically in government translation projects, and the skills required to provide top-notch work under pressure are second nature to them. Lastly, our translators are hand-picked for every assignment, depending on the particular subject matter and their backgrounds, making them a perfect match for efficient and accurate results. By prioritizing the quality of our staff, we have been able to consistently provide the gold standard quality in the translation industry.


It pays off to work with top-tier translation partners; partners who can look beyond the overwhelming and costly piles of documents waiting to be translated, and whose priority is to provide you a wide variety of language solutions that help get you to the finish line. ILS-NY can do this, and much more.

Our team has assisted government agencies for 30+ years, including the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, Department of the Treasury, Department of Defense, among many others.

If you or someone you know could benefit from working alongside ILS-NY, don't hesitate to contact us!

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