Every writer knows the value of a good editor. And as good translators are by definition good writers, they will appreciate a colleague editing their translations and giving them feedback that improves their work. Unfortunately, they do not always get to see what the translation editing entailed.

It is a common best practice in the translation industry for a second set of eyes to review an initial translation, though this step is unfortunately frequently omitted, for cost-containment reasons on the client side, or profitability on the translator’s side. Industry best practices are that translation editing use “tracked changes,” so that all revisions are documented and easily identifiable. Also, this permits a quick  comparison of the original text to its edited version. But frequently the process of translation editing stops there. Many translation companies do not take the time or spend the money to send the editor’s revisions back to the original translator for their review and validation.

Why is this important? The linguists doing the translation editing are almost always translators themselves. And if a translator can make a mistake, so can an editor. Omissions, mistranslations and  inconsistencies can be introduced during translation editing when changes are not implemented methodically and rigorously. And the tracked changes can get visually messy, making it hard to see typos, words that are run together, stray spaces, faulty or missing punctuation, etc.

Translation is as much art as it is science.  If you give a text to six different translators, you will get back six different translations.  That does not mean that five are wrong and only one is right.  It means there are at least six different ways of conveying the meaning of a given text and a second opinion is very valuable in determining the best option.

At InterNation we have found that producing a consensus of opinion between the lead linguist and the reviewer produces a superior end product. Forging an agreement between the two gives the client the reassurance that their text is not just one person’s opinion. Yes, it takes more time and the two colleagues have to be compatible with each other and professional enough to take feedback without resentment.  But the confidence that comes with two linguists agreeing a translation is complete and correct cannot be overestimated.

This is even more so the case when the translation is reviewed by a client reviewer. Often the person doing the translation editing and review is not a linguist with the necessary experience and editorial discipline. Yes, they may know the client-preferred terminology for certain items or processes, but they frequently lack the language skills to produce an elegant text. One of the most common errors introduced by client reviewers is that revisions are not implemented consistently throughout the document: A term will be changed in a few places, but not everywhere throughout the document. The old adage that “the client is always right” must take a back seat to “we respectfully disagree with this revision… for the following reasons.”

When the goal is zero defect production and the creation of a consensus of opinion, there is no room for egos, or deference to a client reviewer who is degrading a quality product.  For more information about the translation process, please visit our Translation Best Practices Guide.

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