Circle of Trust: Editing Translation

by Translation Guy on February 3, 2012

It’s tough to buy a translation when you don’t speak the language. Correction. It’s easy to buy, its just tough to know what you bought. Now you can always hire someone else to check it for you, like another language service provider, or do a language managment thing for youself to tell you if its OK, but many of our clients prefer to use those already embedded in their circle of trust, someone they know.

Here’s the catch. The people they are relying on are often not  translators and don’t like to spend their precious time translating. (If they did, I guess, they would be doing the translation in the first place.) From the feedback we get on our translation we know that our reviewers are sometimes in need of review themselves.

To help our client reviewers do a better job,  we came up with these quick instructions which have been super useful in helping reviewers give us the kind of specific advise we can act on.

So why am I giving this away this top secret proprietary document? I guess, because the bar for admission to my circle of trust is actually pretty low.  Actually all you have to do is  read half-way through one of my posts. So, welcome.  The secret handshake is the same as the Boyscout three-finger-ed version. Anyway, here are the instructions we give to our amateur reviewers:

1. Before you begin review, in addition to the translation, you’ll need the original, source document, any
glossary or style guides, and/or reference materials.
2. As you examine the translation, before you make a change, ask yourself these 3 questions.
a. Is the original translation accurate? Was meaning preserved?
b. Is the translation compliant with all style guides, glossaries or instructions provided?
c. Is it grammatically correct?
3. If your answer to all of those questions is “Yes,” and you still want to make a change, then please
note that this is a stylistic/preference change (i.e. preferring one synonym over another), which is not
considered to be a translation error but a “client preference.”
Example: Crossing out the word “more” and replacing it with “greater” or “additional”.
4. It’s best if you can make your changes directly into the translation. Changes are easiest to manage in
MS Word (make sure that the “Track Changes” function is on.) Highlighter/Sticky Notes function in
Acrobat is another good way to ensure that our translation team can see exactly where the changes took
5. When you have completed the changes, please send to your project manager. After we review your translations, we’ll submit findings to you, along with a case-by-case rationale for accepting or rejecting your changes.
6. We’ll take your changes to improve our glossary and style guide, and to train your assigned
translation team to correct similar errors in the future, using our ISO 9001 QA process for continuous
improvement. Please note that some of the changes you request may be subject to additional charges.

Makes a big difference, and really helps reduce the editorial frustration level since they have a clear template to work from.


  1. Gary Cohen says:

    There is an Italian proverb which says, “Translators are traitors” (Traddutore, traditore; “Translators, traitors”), Ken, isn’t that true? Seems like any translation is going to lose meaning. All translators are traitors to the actual meaning. If this is true then there is no such thing as a noninterpretive translation. Because of this it seems like two things are needed. 1) a set of protocols like yours that safe guards your clients meaning and 2) A chief philosophy Officier like you to guide the wisdom of the interpretation.

    • Ken says:

      You speak with great wisdom, Gary.

  2. Joy says:

    I always wondered if translations get reviewed by someone other than the translator. And as always, you seem to have all of the bases covered and a good plan in place. Impressive as always.

  3. Ken, you’re giving away company secrets. Between this and Luis Von Ahn you’re putting your whole business at risk!

    • Ken says:

      You use my name in the same sentence as that macro-parasite, Eileen?? Quick, where’s my cheese!!! (please note: 3 exclamation point alarm.)

  4. I love that you chose the boy scout hand shake. So much easier than some of these new fancy shakes. Although, the fist bump is pretty cool.

  5. Vadim says:

    I need to make sure that certain young lady, who checks my translations for certain IT account, reads this. I wonder how, we’re not in direct contact…
    Great article, someone should have summed it up long time ago.

  6. Bumblebee says:

    I’ve had a few problems with client preference in the past. Sometimes it changes the new text just enough to make it different. I always get a review just for this reason.

  7. Bunnie says:

    I could have used a translation reviewer a few times after living in China. I was encouraged to get police clearance documents and both times when i had them translated into english they made no sense. They were sent to my new employers and they couldn’t make heads or tails of them and I had to go through the process again. Frustrating.

  8. I work with many clients from abroad and I deal with translating documents regularly. Your plan outlined is well thought out and I highly recommend having any document of importance reviewed.

  9. Henry says:

    Happy to be in your cirlce of trust Greg, I mean Ken. I just hope you don’t hook me up to the lie detector or accuse me of puffing the magic dragon. :)

    • Ken says:

      What a tell. Busted!

  10. Beatrice says:

    The Track Changes function is great. I use it every day. If you haven’t used it, you should.

  11. dcomp11 says:

    When I read your title: “Circle of Trust,” I immediately thought of Deniro. Perfect photo.

    • Ken says:

      You talking to me?

  12. Pippa says:

    Making sure the translation is grammatically correct must be quite difficult sometimes. Simple translations are sometimes difficult for native speakers to translate. Often, that it why jokes don’t often translate well either. I find that the grammar is often a hit or miss because in some instances it can actually change the meaning.

    • Ken says:

      Grammar is the devil’s playground.

  13. Once again you have a great way to help others and improve the way your company can help its clients. You never fail to impress, Ken.

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