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Customer Translation Reviews: Managing Expectations

Customer Translation Reviews: Managing Expectations

You receive the translation from your localization supplier, you then give it to your reviewer. After your reviewer makes a number of changes, the translation has a lot of mark-up, strike-through and comments and you immediately jump to the conclusion that it’s a poor translation. It’s only natural!

This is a problem that every localization service provider will encounter at some stage and it is because of one simple fact; the subjectivity of translations. 

For most translation jobs, you will require more than just a working knowledge of the two languages, which is why using native speakers as well as subject matter experts is so important. However, do not view translators as walking dictionaries, as they are humans who will exercise their judgment – rightly or wrongly – when choosing a word or phrase.

Obviously there can be right and wrong in translation, but the lines in some cases are rather blurred. This is why getting clients onside early is the key to achieving long-lasting success. 

Let’s have a look at some of the issues associated with customer translation reviews and what steps can be put in place to deal with them. 

Is it really an error?
This is the first question you have to ask yourself after a review. Has the wording been changed slightly, without the overall flow of the sentence or paragraph being altered? Or, is there a genuine translation error in the text? While it is fine for reviewers to suggest preferential or subjective changes, the client has to be made aware of the difference between a mistake and an opinion. 

Not all languages are equal
While every translation will have a degree of subjectivity, some languages are more subjective than others. For example, Japanese is one of the most subjective languages of all due to the complexities of the writing system, as there are a series of registers – including Kanji, Katakana and Hirikana – that depend on the audience.

Review the reviewer
What are the credentials of the reviewer? You don’t want to be forced into making changes, only to discover the alterations have been suggested by a person who is not even native – yes, this can happen! Furthermore, do they possess industry or subject matter knowledge, or are they just a non-specialist translator? Also, whether or not they are full-time internal staff or a contractor might influence their review. For example, a contractor could feel like they have to suggest changes to justify their fee. Are the changes faithful to the source, or does the reviewer (who is also a full-time employee, product manager or distribution partner) actually have insight that the translator couldn’t possibly have had?
Make use of resources
At the heart of all good translations is consistency of tone and style, and this is where technology can be your friend. Computer Aided Translation tools, Translation Memory (TM), QA tools, glossaries and multilingual corporate style guides allow localization companies to guarantee a high degree of quality control. But there has to be an acceptance of the need for some degree of learning curve, so make sure that your client is aware there could be some teething issues in the beginning, especially when TMs are still small and glossaries have yet to contain all of the terminology.

Emphasize the positives
When we turn (what appear to be) problematic customer translation reviews on their head, they are actually a great opportunity for greater engagement and interaction. By getting the client and reviewer involved, we can not only demonstrate our ability to solve problems, but also showcase our true value and worth by creating a fantastic final translation. 

Collaboration is important in the majority of industries as it is the easiest way to develop trust – localization is no different. 

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