Dodgy translation

How Can You Be Sure That Your Translation Isn’t Terrible?

It’s one thing getting a sales brochure translated into Spanish or translating an important contract into Mandarin, and it’s another thing making sure the finished article is word perfect.

Finding a translator is simple enough, but feeling confident that the foreign language finished article is spot on is a far trickier task. Unfortunately, it may not be not until your Spanish brochure provokes sniggers in Madrid or your Mandarin contract leaves you in a legal jumble that you’ll discover your translation is less than perfect.

A multilingual pickle

Multilingual pickle

So how can you solve this multilingual pickle? The whole reason you need to work with a translator is because you don’t speak the language. But if you can’t speak the language, you can’t vouch for the quality of the translation. Sales copy could be dry and fail to convey your brand identity in the hands of your Arabic translator. Your live Greek telephone interpreter could garble your message and lose you a valuable lead…

It’s a catch 22 which can really play on your mind if you’re not confident about the translation service you’re using, particularly if your working relationship is new. Fortunately, there are a few checks you can perform and tests you can do to make sure that the translation you’re receiving is top notch…

1. Hire a proofreader or editor

If you have any concerns about the accuracy, fluency or style of a piece of translation work you have had done, the services of a native speaking proofreader or editor will put your mind at rest.

If you simply want to ensure the translation is accurate, ask a proofread to look over the text and provide a report on accuracy of spelling and grammar. If you have more in-depth concerns about the tone, sense and style, look for a native speaking editor to report back on the overall feel and tone of voice of the piece in the translated language.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that your proofreader or editor will be of a high quality, but the more eyes you run your translation under, the more confident you can be that your original translator has hit the nail on the head.

2. Look for accreditations

Accreditations from professional associations are a good sign that your translator knows what they are doing. There are lots of these associations all over the world, some common acronyms to look out for include:

The BDÜ (Germany)
The GTI (Global Translation Institute)
The CiOL or the ITI (UK)
The ATA (US)
The JAT (Japan)

3. Phone a friend

Who wants to be a millionaire german

If you have a contact fluent in the language of translation , take a few moments of their precious time to run the translation past them. It doesn’t matter if they do not speak your language fluently or aren’t trained as an editor – if there’s something seriously squiffy or not on brand, they’ll be able to identify a problem which you can then discuss with your translator or an alternative provider.

4. Run a “back translation”

If you’re just starting out with a new translator and want to build trust, consider asking another provider to back translate the copy. This means that you ask another service to translate your translation back into your native language to check for accuracy and style. If you get back something similar to your original piece, your original translator’s probably doing a pretty good job!

There are, however, a few things to watch out for with this kind of approach:

    • If the back translation guys are aware that they are checking another translator’s work, they may accentuate the negative in order to snaffle your business
    • A poor translation could be the fault of inaccurate work on the part of the back translator – not the original translator – and it will be hard for you to tell

5. Pay another company to check your translation

Red Pen - MistakeInstead of running a blind “back translation” (where the other company are unaware they are “checking” another translator’s work), many translators offer a proofing or error checking service which you can use to review your original translator’s output. Unfortunately, these services are effectively paid to find errors, which can mean that a perfectly accurate and stylistically spot on piece of translation work is unfairly subject to the big red pen.

Ultimately, feeling confident in a translation service is all about building trust. The tests and checks outlined above can highlight potential issues , but they’re not as effective when it comes to identifying outstanding translation. Confidence in your translator can be gained through relationship building and confirmation from unbiased native speakers. Bad translation can be ruled out with our suggested tests.

Looking for an outstanding translator who really understands your needs, whether you’re marketing a product or negotiating a highly technical contract? Perhaps you’re interested in fair, impartial back translation to ensure your translator’s quality? Explore Linguistica International’s services online or tell us all about your experiences in the comments section below.