How to check the quality of your translation

A good translation effectively communicates the same ideas that were written in the original language into another language, conveying the original tone and intent of a message, while taking into account cultural and regional differences. If a translator cannot translate the message accurately, the reader will have difficulty in understanding the message.

A translation should read as though it was written in the target language. A good translation should NOT add information to the source content or modify the style, tone, or meaning of the original in any way. An exception applies when dealing with marketing and advertising content where web copy, advertising, and creative concepts do not always translate directly from one culture to another.

For professional purposes, translations should always be proofread by native speakers, and there is no real alternative to this method. Costly translation errors can ruin the plans of businesses looking to expand into international markets. What may seem like a harmless mistake on product packaging can lead to a serious public relations disaster such as widespread ridicule or much worse – causing offence and outrage. In 2009, HSBC bank had to launch a $10 million rebranding campaign to repair the damage done when its catchphrase “Assume Nothing” was mistranslated as “Do Nothing” in various countries.

Look at their client testimonals to see what others say about them. If necessary call the client who gave the testimonial for direct feedback.

What are the company’s credentials? Are they a member of any professional associations? Are they ISO 17100 certified, the standard for translation companies? Certification means the translator cannot be the person who finally checks the translation (the editor) and the final proofreader must also be a different person to the editor and translator.

Ask the Language Service Provider for a test translation. If the text translation is poor this should be a warning.

Back translation is a procedure where a translator interprets or re-translates a document that was previously translated into another language, back to the original language. It is usually carried out by a translator who was not involved in the original translation into the target language. This person should have no prior knowledge of the objectives or its specific context, therefore a back translation will never be 100% exactly the same as the original source text. It is a quality assessment tool that can be used both by clients and translation companies.

In-house checks compare the source and target files to catch omissions, wrong numbers, and badly localised content. Most computer aided translation (CAT) tools like XBench are good at detecting untranslated segments, source same as target, and even missing or wrong numbers.

The hidden costs of poor quality translation can swiftly mount up. Businesses that operate over international borders and which are looking to save money should think twice before making cuts to their translation service.

Involving a translation company in your international marketing venture from the outset can make a significant difference to your chance of success. Whether you are researching local customs, looking for information on preferred marketing techniques in your target market or presenting information about your product, having someone on hand who speaks the language fluently is a key part of the process. A good translation company who can handle everything from marketing information to website translation services can quickly become an invaluable part of your international marketing strategy.