Re: How do you ensure the quality of translations?

Subject: Re: How do you ensure the quality of translations?
From: Deborah Hemstreet <dvora -at- tech-challenged -dot- com>
To: "Boudreaux, Madelyn (GE Healthcare, consultant)" <MadelynBoudreaux -at- ge -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 26 Jul 2009 23:26:51 -0400

Hi Madelyn,

There are several ways this can be done. Firstly, make sure that your
company has a process in place for picking a translation agency (or

This will vary from place to place. What do you work on? References,
track record, cost (business need), do they offer a certificate? Are
they ISO Certified or at least ISO compliant?

There is a lot of argument on the latter two issues. But, if they are at
least compliant you know that the translator's processes are, on paper,
good. A start in the right direction. You can always start out with a
sample project. Don't tell them you will have the translation verified,
just let them know that if pleased, more will come their way. Then get
the project verified.

Whether an agency or individual, does the person doing the actual
translation have familiarity with the subject matter and specialized
terminology (for example medical, electronics, IT, etc.)?

Some companies set up an in-country review process. An initial
translation is made. The translation is then channeled to an employee of
the company who is located in the target company. The assumption is that
the in-country reviewer will better understand the nuances of the
language. Their job is to compare the English with the translation and
send their comments/changes/input to the translation agency/translator(s).

The draw-back here, is that many people think that speaking the language
natively means they will be a good reviewer. This is not necessarily the
case. When using a corporate in-country reviewer, ideally, they should
be trained in the task, they should be knowledgeable of the product
(surprisingly not always the case), and be aware of their
responsibility. They are not to rewrite the document to their liking,
only verify the veracity of the translation.

Finally, there are all kinds of other issues that should be looked at
and considered:

1. What software does the translator use (if any). If Trados (or
similar), will they give you the translation memory as part of the cost?
This often has to be handled at the contract stage).
2. What format does the translator want to receive the original in?
Obviously, PDF is NOT acceptable if using translation memory. However,
if they ask for Frame, and findout you use Word and say they can work
with that to, ask them HOW. I had a very unsatisfactory situation where
the agency took our Word documents, ported them into Frame, and then
gave us PDFs. The problems came about when we insisted we wanted the
translated WORD documents... then I began to understand why the
formatting of our PDFs had much to be desired.
There are Frame oriented translators and Word oriented ones. Do not
accept a Word oriented translator when you are submitting Frame, and
vice versa. People specialize for a reason!
3. When you are reviewing the document, there are things to look for
that can give clues as to how the translation was handled.
a. How many questions did you receive on subject matter you know is
b. If there was text marked "do not translate" how was that handled?
c. If you gave other very specific instructions, for example, the
first NOUN after a trademark must be capitalized - even if it is not
grammatically correct (I had this case based on a trademark lawyer's
input), has the translator carried through this rule where the first
"noun" translates to be placed BEFORE the trademark? If not, are they
willing to change it?

I have found that the degree to which I get cooperation on all of these
areas, the more likely I'll be to be able to rely on the translation.

It is important to point out, however, that even if you get a
certificate from the agency, at the end of the day, your company is
legally responsible for the content of the translated text. In cases
where this is critical (such as medical devices, pharmaceuticals,
aeronautics, etc.), the importance of GOOD in-country reviewers cannot
be stressed enough.

Other things you can do is to look for end-users in target countries
whom Marketing can interview and ask them if they are pleased with the
translation. Surveys, feedback, all of this info helps you get
measureables to verify your process and decisions are in place.

Finally, review, review, question, question, and don't forget that
people can get slack. There was one sad case where a good company got a
contract from a place I worked for, only to loose it a few years later
when, suddenly, the feedback from countries became negative. One or two
bad translators made it bad for the whole company.

I hope this information is helpful. Just remember, managing translations
can be a mind numbing process. It is a lot of work, and very costly.
Competition is fierce. There are a lot of good companies and translators
out there, but there are indeed a lot of poor ones out there. Often, a
decision will be made solely on the lowest price. All too often, you get
what you pay for. To the best of my knowledge, there are no Walmart's
for translations.

Have a great week!


Free Software Documentation Project Web Cast: Covers developing Table of
Contents, Context IDs, and Index, as well as Doc-To-Help
2009 tips, tricks, and best practices.

Help & Manual 5: The complete help authoring tool for individual
authors and teams. Professional power, intuitive interface. Write
once, publish to 8 formats. Multi-user authoring and version control!

You are currently subscribed to TECHWR-L as archive -at- web -dot- techwr-l -dot- com -dot-

To unsubscribe send a blank email to
techwr-l-unsubscribe -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
or visit

To subscribe, send a blank email to techwr-l-join -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com

Send administrative questions to admin -at- techwr-l -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.

Please move off-topic discussions to the Chat list, at:

How do you ensure the quality of translations?: From: Boudreaux, Madelyn (GE Healthcare, consultant)

Previous by Author: Red button: next in the saga
Next by Author: Re: How do you ensure the quality of translations?
Previous by Thread: Re: How do you ensure the quality of translations?
Next by Thread: Re: Re: How do you ensure the quality of translations?

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads