Why We Need to Remove Opinions From Translation Review

Just like any writing, translation is an art, and the translator is the artist that makes subjective decisions within their writing.

Matt Grech

Matt Grech

Content Marketing ManagerSmartling

As a writer, it can be frustrating to receive feedback on your work based on opinion. Editing for grammar, spelling, clarity, and consistency are important, but subjective word choice or style of the author’s writing should remain. Otherwise, writer’s would find themselves in an endless loop of corrections trying to please every opinion.

The same is true when you have your content translated. Translations need to be reviewed for any potential mistakes, errors, or typos. But translations also introduce a new challenge: is the message accurate, consistent, and on-brand?

When your content is being translated into a language you may not even speak, you will need a process of translation review to ensure the quality of your translations. Just like any form of writing, translation is an art, and the translator is the artist that makes subjective decisions within their writing.

Here’s why and how you can remove overly subjective opinions from translation review.

What is translation review

Translation review is the process of assessing translations after they've been completed to ensure quality, consistency, tone, and style.

Some elements you'll want to look out for during a translation review include:

  • Does the translation meet your quality standards?
  • Is the word choice consistent with your branding and related materials?
  • Did the translator manage to capture the tone and feeling of your message?

Translation review is essentially an extra quality control measure that brands can employ to ensure that localized content retains the overall brand feel and tone and catch any last-minute issues.

What makes a good translation reviewer?

We often hear of companies relying on bilingual employees to review translations to ensure accuracy and quality, but this leads to some pretty big roadblocks.

For one, the employee might be bilingual, but not familiar with the dialect or particular region your brand is localizing for. While they can speak the language, they may not be able to interpret or contribute familiar phrases unique to that region.

They also may not be a direct expert on the topic - especially not on that topic in the translated language - allowing errors to make their way into published content.

These employees also have an entirely separate job unrelated to translation review, so you will be pulling them away from their standard duties.

You will, therefore, want to find a reviewer that can focus solely on the review process,

Translation reviewers should have:

  1. A deep understanding of both the source and target languages. Just like with translators, your reviewer should be a native or near-native speaker of the target language.
  2. Familiarity with your brand messaging, product, service, solution or capabilities as well as any style guidelines your brand adheres to.
  3. As much context as possible. Reviewers need to gain the full picture of the content, including any related context that might influence the direction, tone or word choice of the translation.

Why we need to remove opinions from review

Translators do more than just look up and replace words for their counterpart in a different language. But rather, just as any writer does, the translator makes numerous decisions on how to best express the idea they're working to convey.

With linguistic assets like style guides, glossaries, and visual context, translators are continuously making various considerations in regards to word choice, sentence structure, and overall flow of the content.

And at the end of the day, language is subjective. Twenty different people can read the same line, and pull twenty or more different meanings and interpretations.

That's a challenge when it comes to translation review. The goal of a reviewer isn't to input their interpretation into the review, but rather objectively evaluate the quality of the translation.

Essentially, we need reviewers to evaluate the accuracy and consistency of the translation. They must be familiar with brand guidelines and style to determine if the translation matches the tone and feel of your brand.

When translation reviewers begin introducing their stylistic changes, or opinions on word choice and syntax, they are introducing an entirely new editing step into the process.

This slows down the translation process, with reviewers now effectively adding in a new editing step. Translations would then have to be sent back to the translator - not because the quality isn't there, but because the reviewer might prefer a different stylistic choice.

What should translation reviewers look for?

Translation review needs to remain as objective as possible, without the reviewer introducing their own opinion and subjective preferences into the work.

Therefore translation reviewers need to focus on critical, objective elements of the translation:

  • How accurate is the translation of the original content?
  • Did the translator manage to capture the feeling and tone of the translation, according to the brand style guide?
  • Are there any grammar or spelling issues that need to be cleaned up?
  • Did the translator remain consistent with branding, terminology, and style?
  • Were numbers like dates, prices or temperatures properly localized?

By limiting the role of the reviewer to simple, objective review, you can ensure that translations keep flowing through the platform to be published on time, instead of sending that content back to the translator simply because of a difference in opinion.

Maybe we don't need manual translation review

Cloud-based Translation Management Systems have made it easier than ever to ensure quality translations, every time. So much so that we even like to make the case that your brand can probably do without internal review.

Internal review is a fairly expensive "insurance policy," as Kevin Cohn, our former SVP of Operations at Smartling wrote in 2018. And this stance hasn't changed.

Kevin noted how one of our largest customers at the time would only change 4% of their translations after internal review. Yet it was costing them $35 per individual string change. More importantly, this brand was wasting time by letting its content sit in a lengthy review process without even making substantial changes.

Smartling makes it easier to manage internal review by collecting data on how effective your review process is and providing the necessary functionality to automate your entire review process.

Automated Quality Checks will catch any spelling errors, typos, grammatical issues, or terminology inconsistencies within your translations before the content moves further through the workflow. In some cases, quality checks can even be implemented to ensure that any issues are cleared up before the translation can even be submitted.

Translation review, minus the opinions

But this doesn't mean that you should never leverage a review process. For very high-priority content with a long lifetime value (based on how heavily it will be trafficked and how long it'll be accessible), it could make sense to implement a review process to absolutely perfect that translation.

Yet, when it comes to lower-priority content, it might make sense to let automation handle the bulk of review -- that would certainly help remove the opinion from the equation.