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4 Levels of Preferences in Corporate Translations

4 Levels of Preferences in Corporate Translation

How do we ensure quality in translation? Translation is not an exact science. You cannot simply say that “A” in one language can ONLY be translated as “B” in another language. There is ALWAYS another possibility. And which one we choose will depend on a number of factors.

How to ensure Quality in Translation?

  • Translators and their corporate clients are constantly taking decisions on which translation option they prefer. For example, should we use “table” or “desk” in this or that context. But most of the time we’re not even aware that we’re doing it.
  • So the key to corporate translation projects is who takes those decisions and how they take them. This applies to press releases, large websites and technical manuals.

In addition, we would probably all agree that

  1. Sales and the company’s bottom line are the overwhelming priorities,
  2. The end customer needs to understand what we’re saying,
  3. Someone needs to decide what is “understandable” to the end customer way before your product/service hits the market.

Linguistic Preferences

At the end of the day it’s all down to linguistic preferences. And there are at least four types of preferences:

  • Regional or locale-related preferences
  • Industry-wide preferences
  • Corporate preferences
  • Personal preferences

1 Quality in translation – Regional or locale-related preferences

The usual example is UK vs. US English; should we use “lift” or “elevator”… Similarly, Brazilian vs. European Portuguese have many differences.

2 Quality in translation – Industry-wide preferences

We’ve all heard “that’s what we call it in the industry”. To an extent, it’s probably true. However, there are some issues with that:

  1. If you think about it, can anyone claim to have the only possible “truth”. Does therefore nobody in the industry say it differently…?
  2. However, when researching technical concepts on the internet, any translator knows she will come across several possible answers.

3 Quality in translation – Corporate preferences

This is how our company prefers to say it. Facts:

  1. It is impossible (or at least pretty improbable) that all employees refer to any one concept in exactly the same way
  2. Furthermore, there’s a big chance at least one of your competitors says it differently.

Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Well, we’re all managing to sell our products. So, either

  1. We’re all correct!, or
  2. Alternatively, we’re all wrong…!!

4 Quality in translation – Personal preferences

This is the most important type of preference in corporate translation processes. Just think about it:

  1. Your CEO tells you to change “table” to “desk” across your entire product catalogue. Will you follow his/her advice? Of course you will!
  2. Does that mean that your CEO’s linguistic criterion better than yours? Well, maybe it is, maybe it isn´t.

As a result it’ll get done, won’t it…?


In conclusion, how should corporations manage the process of taking language-related decisions? Decisions which are small, incoherent, inconsistent, often random. How do they manage quality in translation? Click here to read our article on the importance of creating and maintaining GLOSSARIES.

In addition, you could read our post on the ROLE OF THE REVIEWER.

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