Reviewing translation – who should do it?

Having shelled out money, time, and other resources on getting a web translation done, it’s important to choose the right person to review it if this step is part of your process. An inexperienced or overzealous reviewer can change the meaning of the text entirely, or introduce errors if they are rushed or their written skills in that language are inadequate.

There’s a delicate balance that must be struck between the translator’s knowledge of their language, and the client reviewer’s knowledge of their company and products. So who is the best choice as a reviewer?

Our advice: Always use a mother-tongue speaker, preferably someone whose job involves writing or editing content, and who will be able to prioritise the review. The reviewer needs to know the company and its products/services well, so an in-country manager who is a native speaker of the target language is likely to be a good choice.

Can’t I ask anyone who speaks that language to check over the blog translation?

Lots of people can speak a foreign language, but it doesn’t make them qualified to edit a web translation accurately – there are many different levels of ability in speaking a language, and someone who can hold their own in conversation could have very poor or non-existent written skills in that language.

Also, a professional translator is fluent in both the source language and the target, i/e their mother tongue; most people who are not translators do not have the same level of fluency, as it is not a skill they get to practise every day.

What about asking my Agent/Distributor to review my blog translation for me?

The first problem with asking someone who is not a translator to work on web translation for you is that it isn’t their full-time job. Agents and distributors in particular are very busy and will have many other demands on their time, so your web translation could end up bottom of the heap. In our experience, it takes a lot longer too, as it won’t be their first priority – this could seriously delay the publication of your text or a product launch, etc.

Also, translators spend at least 7 or 8 years – often a whole lifetime – honing and improving their skills to become professionals in web translation and deliver a well written piece of text. Your distributors, agents and in-country managers have spent their time focusing on a different career path entirely – there’s simply a different skill set involved.

If the in-country contact is keen to get involved in the web or blog translation process, why not enlist their help in getting some background material, or preparing a glossary for translators to use? This is a really important part of the process that can often get overlooked, and their industry knowledge will be invaluable here. Comprehensive background material helps a translator get a sense of the company and their preferred style, as well as answering many of the queries they might have. This can save time both during the web translation stage, as it removes a lot of the guesswork, and also when it comes to reviewing the web translation, as there is likely to be less that needs to be refined or changed.

Changing the source text

Lots of reviewers make changes to the translated text that then make it different from the original source text. This is of course a client’s prerogative, and many texts will be vastly improved if edited and adapted for the target market. However, this doesn’t mean that the web translation provided was incorrect, simply that the client is fine-tuning the text before publishing it in a foreign market. Think about how many stages a document, brochure, manual etc goes through when it is being written in the first place – just as many stages could be necessary in the web translation  process in order to arrive at the final version.

Giving feedback

It’s always helpful if a client is specific with their feedback on a web translation, the process should ideally be a good-natured collaboration between the parties involved and not a clash of wills! If the client can provide examples of what they have changed during their review, and why, this will help refine the process for next time. 

For more information about the web translation process and how you can help your web translation provider to do a great job, download our “How to buy translation” guide.

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