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Managing the internal review process

“This translation was done by a machine! Everyone knows that ‘make up’ means ‘maquillaje’!” True story: a client’s internal reviewer objected to the translation ‘the make-up of the committee included…’ because he had never heard ‘make up’ used in this way before.

One of the main problems with corporate translation projects is that the “coordinator” – the person who places the order – is not the same as the “reviewer” – the person who will actually use the documentation. This is typical of large corporations with offices in more than one language region. The more languages that are coordinated centrally, the more relevant this issue becomes.

Although there are exceptions, the “coordinator” typically does not speak the target languages of the project. This means that they are incapable of judging the quality of the translation (accuracy, tone, register, technical terminology, etc.). The coordinator has no choice but to trust the supplier and hope the translation generates no negative feedback. The nightmare begins when one or more colleagues/acquaintances/distributors send a (generally fairly aggressive) e-mail telling him that the translation was terrible and that they can´t possibly approve it.

When it comes to translation, A does not always equal B. Translation, even of technical documents, is very often a subjective matter; different people regularly insist on conflicting solutions.

Some people prioritise academic correctness over normal usage of the target language. Some overlook the fact that industry usage does not always coincide with official terminology or everyday speech (hence the importance of choosing a translator who is specialised in your field).

In order to achieve best results the first time around, one must establish a clear and defined line of communication with your language service provider of what is expected in each circumstance (ie tone, technical terminology, personal preferences.)

The reviewer is often the key to this process and thus the success of the project at hand. Because they are so important, coordinators should take note and choose reviewers on the basis of their technical knowledge (product, market, etc.), their availability, and their positive attitude.

Depending on the type of documentation, they should stick to reviewing technical terminology or to assessing whether the result is appropriate for their home market. Although it is a huge temptation to do so, reviewers should not offer opinions on (or refuse to accept) other aspects of the translation.

The keys to a successful translation project are knowing how to fit together the puzzle: clear requirements, effective processes, a collaborative culture and the best possible supplier. The reviewer does not always get to see these elements, and this makes confidence-building and trust all-important. Translators are professionally trained linguists; they will repay your trust and confidence.

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