Why is it so easy to criticise a translation?

Why is it so easy to criticise a translation?

Experience has taught us that too much review is often a bad thing! Some people believe that a translation is a commodity; something that will come out the same no matter who, or what, does it. It seems, this is how some internal reviewers see the translation process. Of course, all translators have specific expertise and style. For this reason we are careful to choose the right translator for each project.

A qualified, professional translator has linguistic expertise, and yet we have found that when it comes to reviewing the work of a translator, the reviewer often becomes overly critical. Why is this?

Trust

One problem can be that the internal reviewer usually has little knowledge of who provided the translation services. Not knowing who carried out the translation, can create a subconscious lack of trust. This can result in a negative predisposition to the translated documentation.

Involving the reviewer in the project early on, and allowing direct contact with us, can often help.

Fluency

Most people expect that translators should be native speakers of the target language. And at Quicksilver Translate, we guarantee to always use native-speaker translators. However, sometimes it can happen that the reviewer is not a native-speaker. In this case, they could misunderstand nuances, or a colloquial phrase that they are not familiar with.

Editing

Two important questions:

  • Does your company policy allow national teams to ‘adapt’ your marketing collateral?
  • Was your reviewer part of the team that wrote the original copy?

Sometimes, the reviewer is from a regional office or supplier. Often the reviewer is from another department and hasn’t been involved from the outset of the project. In both cases, it has occurred that the reviewer will edit the original document and say they are fixing problems with the translation!

Consider, if five marketing people are put together in a meeting room, they could, and often will, argue for hours before agreeing on the “best” way to express something! Now imagine a (possibly non-native speaking) reviewer trying to judge whether that specific tone and style has been transposed into the target language?

Be sure to ask your translation company whether the reviewer is simply ‘fine-tuning’ or actually making changes to the original message.

In conclusion

It is easy to criticise a translation! But to have a successful relationship with both your translation provider and your reviewer, and to ensure satisfactory output, one must be aware of the difference in expertise between the reviewer and translator. Translators are qualified professionals, with honed linguistic skills. The reviewer should have a thorough knowledge of your market, your brand, and any specific terminology.

A good reviewer understands that their role is to check technical terminology, and/or to assess whether the result is appropriate for their home market. Reviewers should not offer opinions on (or refuse to accept) other aspects of the translation. Most of all, it is important to choose the appropriate reviewer for each specific document.

For more on this topic, check out: The role of the internal reviewer