Savvy consumers know how to stretch their budget and get their money’s worth. Luckily, the same principle is true when it comes to translation.
There’s just one snag: As a translation buyer, it’s likely you don’t speak the language you need a translation for. But if you can’t read the translation, how do you know you’re getting what you paid for? What can you do to evaluate a translation or its quality?
Shouldn’t you just trust the translator? Well, yes and no. While it’s good to trust the translator or translation team you selected to deliver your translation, it’s important to actually verify what you’re getting. After all, the purpose of a translation is for those words to serve you; translation is an investment. Like any other investment, you should make sure it will provide you with the dividends you’re looking for.
Does your translation say what it’s supposed to say – nothing more and nothing less? Will your translation do what it’s supposed to do? Only by adequately checking a translation will you know the answers to these questions, as well as this one: Am I getting what I paid for?
There are actually many different methods you can use to check translations, but here I will focus on some of the most common you can do yourself or have done for you.
Quick Checks You Can Do
If you want to take the bull by the horns and start checking the translation yourself even though you can’t read the language the translation is in, you have options to help you avoid a goring.
Simple Visual Check: Take a look at your source file and the translated file, and watch for red flags. How long is the document? While some languages naturally use a greater or lesser number of characters or words, a large disparity between the files may indicate that not everything was translated. Is the formatting consistent? Compare to see if bolded items, numbered lists, images, captions, etc. are present in both documents. Were directions followed? For example, if you asked the translator not to translate the company name.
Online Machine Translation: While online machine translation tools like Google Translate aren’t good enough to handle the translation of medical or legal documents, or really any text where the details are important, you can run sections of the professional translation through these tools for you to get a very rough idea of what is being said in your translation. In addition, you can quickly check how close the professional translation you received is to the translations produced by these tools. After all, a translation buyer’s worst nightmare is having a translator pass off the product of Google Translate as their own work. Check it out!
Translation Quality Assurance Software: If commissioning translation is or will be a regular part of your job, you might consider taking the time to find the right translation quality assurance software. There are a number of free and paid options, but what they have in common is they check for possible translation errors. That said, not every error flagged will be an error; there are likely to be a number of false positives as well. Take a close look to try to separate the true errors from the false positives, and don’t be afraid to discuss the results with your translator.
Thorough Checks for Quality Control
When it comes to safety, education, medicine, law or any business where it’s imperative you and your organization put your best foot forward, a more thorough translation check is indispensable. Here too, there are options.
In-Country Review: For a professional translation check, bring in the professionals. Enlist the services of in-country, native-speaking translation reviewers with subject matter expertise to review the translation you commissioned. (If you’re wondering where to find this, Responsive Translation offers the service in hundreds of language pairs, even if your translation was not performed by us.)
Qualified, In-House Reviewers: Is translation a regular requirement for your organization? Not every native-speaking or bilingual employee makes a good reviewer, but those who are both qualified and trained to the task can make excellent reviewers. Like translators, reviewers should be native speakers of the target language and be thoroughly familiar with both the translation’s subject matter and the translation review process; however, reviewers don’t need to be translators themselves. How? We can train your employees for this task, and we also offer a free, standalone resource – “The Translation Checkers’ Kit: Best Practices for Checking Translations.”
In the end, no matter who or what you use to check your translation, know that doing so is a worthwhile part of the translation buying process. Only by having a translation checked can you gauge its true value to you and your organization, and whether you got what you paid for.