Translation Review and the Ramifications of Over-Reaching Changes

Translation review can be a very helpful and healthy part of a translation workflow. However, over-reaching changes can cause the process to be of limited value and cause delays in the completion of your projects. The review process is most effective when the reviewer provides:

  • feedback on terminology, especially industry-specific or company-specific suggestions
  • discovery of any issues like typos (though the review process should uncover those!)
  • improvements related to the understanding of concepts from the user’s perspective

These types of changes are very valuable when provided by a subject matter expert. Not everyone can provide this type of feedback. Your translation reviewers should be chosen very carefully. This post describes how to choose a reviewer for your projects.

Here are three important points to consider regarding the review process.

1.    What are the ramifications, downstream implications of changing the meaning of the translation?  Time and Money.

Allowing each office or distributor to make changes as they see fit carries many risks including branding risk, translation memory loss, and lost time (delays in time to market for your products or services and labor cost).

Branding risk – marketing teams put a significant effort in crafting the message they want out in the marketplace. Some reviewers feel that they can delete content, add content and completely change the meaning of the source language without any regard to the original intent of the piece. Let’s consider a single brochure in multiple languages that have had this type of review executed. If we review the completed pieces side-by side-they likely don’t portray the same message. Would the product manager appreciate his products portrayed in different ways in each country?

During a project we completed for a medical device manufacturer, the French reviewer didn’t like the colonial reference to the explorer Marquette for the company name so he changed the name of the company in the documentation. Needless to say, the CEO wasn’t pleased. In a second example, a large food company allowed the Japanese office to make whatever changes they pleased and the company’s tagline was changed to something completely inappropriate with a double meaning with a derogatory reference to housewives and women.

Time and money –  multiple rounds of review required to complete a simple brochure can require hours and hours of time. This includes the translation vendor’s time and the reviewer’s time. The end result is content that strays from the original intent. We suggest using clear and concise guidelines that do not allow for these types of changes. This effort will save time and money and deliver multilingual content that is consistent in all countries and consistent with the original intent of each piece of marketing collateral.

This type of policy will also help maintain the fidelity of your translation memory database. When translation reviewers make extensive changes to the source, the content in the database is far less useful and causes translation mismatches for future projects. This situation will reduce the amount of translation memory discounts on future projects.

We certainly want subject matter experts to weigh in on the content. Their counsel on terminology is very important but they should not be allowed to completely stray from the source or add or delete items. If they feel strongly about an addition or deletion, the prescribed best practice would be to make those changes to the source document after approval by the document owner. That way the source and translated versions will all be in sync and you will avoid any of the negative ramifications in terms of branding risk and translation memory loss.

2.    How does changing the meaning of the translation affect the translation memory? Can I leverage the changes? Will the linguist have to follow “The company’s approved changes in subsequent translation?

The translation provided by your translation vendor actually contains valuable terminology built from previously translated content. Sometimes changes prescribed by the reviewer are different than previously translated and approved text. Your translation service provider should provide feedback to the reviewer about how those types of changes will invalidate previously released projects. This part of the process should be collaborative so that the review process doesn’t adversely affect previously released projects or the efficacy of the translation memory database.

Deletions are also very problematic. Those types of changes cannot be stored in translation memory so those types of changes will need to be made over and over again. Additions pose the same problem. Additions and deletions also pose the problem of the marketing department not knowing exactly what is in print and in circulation relative to a given product line. These types of changes do not fall within the best practices suggested by translation providers or industry standards.

3.    Do you have a diagram of our current translation workflow (back and forth between the translator and the reviewer)?

Having a good visual of the workflow is helpful. Here is the standard workflow used at Argo Translation.

translation workflow

Another resource you might find useful is a recent e-book we published on the client review process. You can request the e-book here.



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