My Translation, Right or Wrong

by Translation Guy on July 4, 2011

I wrote this for one of my clients the other day.  Well, a lot of it, anyway.  I’ve cranked it up for you translation workflow freaks.

The translation has been completed. How do you know if it’s OK?

You can…

Assume that it is correct. Unless you can’t assume, because of compliance or QA requirement.

Ask a friend or office mate who speaks the language if it is correct, assuming that they are qualified to do the job. Unless you can’t assume.

Use a pre-qualified third party or qualify your own.

Use a language service provider to:

  • Do a parallel translation
  • Do a back translation
  • Do additional edit(s)

Use a target language copywriter to change meaning, to adapt, transcreate, and localize for audience-specific understanding.

You can have a physician (for life sciences) or other technical resource check the translation to make sure it is OK.

Or you can test end-user understanding and impressions using surveys and focus groups.

Harmonization Is Key

Whether the quality assurance strategy includes back translation or parallel translation or edit, the harmonization of the consensus document is where accuracy, balance and consistency emerge. The key to success is an open, collaborative process. As the saying goes, “Many eyes keep danger at bay.”

But whatever you do, it’s all got to come together in the end.  All those translation assets have to be updated with editorial and validation corrections. Getting everyone on the same page is important to get to the best result.

That best result is then the template for future efforts. So style guides may get re-styled, or term bases get de-debased, or translation memories recollected, so mistakes aren’t repeated. This is the backbone of our ISO 9001 process, which forces us to redefine our whole approach to business. . . we have to keep getting better.

And speaking of which, I am proud as punch to boast on one of my life’s greatest accomplishments. Every member of this organization has been working on this quality piece for years, and there’s been no shortage of heartache. I have leaned hard on this, as have all my companions. And we’ve done it. For the last three months, 100% of our clients reported that they would enthusiastically recommend our service to friends and colleagues. This means our 2011 2Q NPS score was perfect. We are the best in the business.


  1. Wilber says:

    Congratulations, Ken.

    Re back translations: I never do them. I even refuse editing offers. For one thing, the would-be client – who as often as not has been “burned” – doesn’t want to pay what it would take to clean up the botch.

    Hey! Keep ’em flying!

  2. Gail McGee says:

    First the Lexiophile awards and now this? Mr. Clark, someone needs to slow you down…

  3. How many others in the market can claim this degree of perfection?

    • Ken says:

      Not one.

  4. James says:

    How did you fair in the last 4 quarters?

    • Ken says:

      Tale of Two-Cities-ish.

  5. Good job mate. I’ve been trying to get my foot in the door at 1-800-translate for 2 years now and it has been next to impossible to get a response. This burns even more as I see you growing without a quality translator such as myself. KEN, LET ME IN!

  6. Erik Nichols says:


  7. Cheesepants says:

    Excellent work Ken.

  8. Dear Ken

    I found your translation/localization blog and wanted to see if you might be interested in writing about a Certificate program at the University of Washington on the topic of Localization. It’s a program which is available both in the classroom and online and we’re trying to get the word out among key bloggers within this community.

    Would you be interested in participating in a conference call with other bloggers to learn more about the program? As program director I would participate as well as some faculty members from the program so you could learn more about this certificate during the call. We can also provide you with some useful content that you might fine helpful in writing a piece about the program. Lastly, if you have colleagues or fellow bloggers that you know about who you recommend we should include, please feel free to let us know.

    If you want to participate please review the Doodle Poll at the link below and let us know your availability.

    Thank you very much for considering this request.

    Erik Bansleben, Ph.D.
    Program Development Director, Academic Programs
    UW Professional & Continuing Education

  9. John says:

    Congratulations from my side too, on becoming the world’s best and most efficient translation agency! There is a lot that I still have to learn.

  10. Swajen says:

    That’s amazing…

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