Best practice: giving feedback on translations

Frustration with a translation happens most often when the final client (the person who actually uses the translated material) has not been in direct contact with the translator himself. Not knowing who carried out the translation creates a subconscious lack of trust and a negative predisposition to the translated documentation. Moreover, a translation which is perceived by the user as ‘sub-optimal’ creates a high degree of frustration and irritation, and we often exaggerate how bad it really is. A few mistakes/discrepancies/preferences can lead to a reaction which is out of all proportion.A customer’s general comments (‘it requires a retranslation’) are not really enough of a basis for corrective action. Comments such as ‘it was too literal’, ‘there were too many mistakes’, ‘the style was too free/literal’, etc. don’t help either, as they do not form any basis for discussion. In order to do anything about it, translators need specific feedback on actual sentences and terms as well as the customer’s suggestions and alternatives. Unfortunately, this is normally very difficult to obtain, as it requires the customer to spend a significant amount of time on the document.

Translators are more than happy to analyse all of a customer’s suggestions in detail and give their professional opinion on each one. Ideally, the deliverable from this analysis would be a list of comments (one per suggestion) where suggestions are classified into one of the following five categories: ‘Correction’, ‘Possible correction’, ‘Terminology preference’, ‘Stylistic preference’ or ‘New text’.