Best practices for translation quality often recommend “in-country review” (ICR), especially for the translation of marketing and sales-related content. This quality assurance step takes advantage of expertise from people who:
- Know the customers and the market
- Are native speakers of the target language, but also have a good understanding of the source language
- Understand your company’s voice and brand
- Are independent of the translators (preferably part of your own company)
- Have been trained on the review process and understand what they should, and should not do as part of the review
Some businesses adopt this process because they immediately see the value of having their own local-market experts approve the translations that have been worked on by an external supplier. They are enthusiastic about having their in-country marketing teams, employees, or partners take a quick look at the professional, top-quality translations, expecting them to read through the translation and give the final stamp of approval.
Unfortunately, once the work begins, the review step soon becomes a huge bottleneck, making the translation timeline far too long. Because it is so cumbersome, the in-country review step eventually gets ignored—until the moment someone complains about poor translation quality.
What makes ICR so difficult?
Here are four key challenges companies often face:
1. Bilingual staff are not translators or editors. Translation is a distinct profession. If you needed to pick someone to review marketing copy in your source language — English, for example — would your main criterion be, “anyone who speaks English”? Of course not. You’d want someone experienced with crafting copy in that language. The mere ability to speak a language does not mean the person will offer valuable feedback. In fact, the reviewers may suggest changes that are grounded in less knowledge and research than were available to the translator.
2. In-country review is assigned to people who have another full-time job to do. To use a common example, in-country marketing teams have targets to meet, events to work on and attend, and other work to do. When someone asks them to review 600 sentences, usually using a tool that they have not touched for six months, it drops to the bottom of their list. The in-country review is simply not their first priority. Chances are, their time is actually more valuable to the company if spent in their areas of core competency.
3. In-country reviewers are asked to follow a convoluted process. They are given a spreadsheet with the English and translated sentences, or a PDF file to add comments to, or they are asked to use the tool that the translators use. Nothing looks like the finished website or document. The content flow is strange, and nothing makes much sense. It is time-consuming, requires a lot of back-and-forth, and sending files around.
4. The reviewers are not given clear guidance on what kind of feedback is needed. Without highly specific guidelines on what type of comments are being requested, reviewers quickly become frustrated as they hunt for errors and document every possible change, even highly subjective, “happy-to-glad” changes. They want to update nearly every translated sentence, and it’s far too much work. They rightly wonder, “Why are we paying for a professional translation if we have to do it all over again?”
When the in-country review process begins to suffer, a frequent mistake companies make is to outsource the in-country review to a second translation agency, thinking that they can simply get a “second pair of eyes.” While this means that a different linguist can check the quality of the translation, that person doesn’t have the same perspective on style and brand and voice. They are not interacting with the company’s own customers every day.
And, the second translation agency often finds more things to change than are truly necessary, just to demonstrate that they are doing a good job, and to show that they are a higher-quality translation agency in the hopes of winning the translation business. It’s essentially paying a vendor to critique performance for a job they hope to earn themselves — it’s biased and subjective feedback. And, it takes the process further away from the brand as opposed to getting closer to it.
Using traditional, manual translation processes, in-country reviews are a headache for everyone involved. Here are the three major flaws with the “old-school” process:
1. The linguistic choices were made by translators without any context. The heart of the problem was that the translator didn’t see exactly what the finished product would look like when published. The translator would work on a website’s navigation menus one day, a marketing campaign the next, and a product description the day after. Instead of creating a high-quality translation from the start, errors were introduced into the translations early on, simply because the translator did not see the full context in which a sentence would be used.
2. Translators couldn’t see if their translations would fit. Even if the translator worked linguistic miracles to provide a perfect translation from the very start, the translation often did not fit into the space when the content was finally published. If the translator had could have tested out the spacing in advance of publishing their translation, they could have selected a shorter translation, or they could ask the project manager what to do. Because technologies did not support this, the task of making sure things fit perfectly was often left to the in-country reviewer, or worse—the end customer—to discover the problem.
3. Translators had no ability to communicate with the in-country reviewer. In traditional processes, there was no way to connect the person doing the translation with the person doing the in-country review. All questions had to go through several other people, taking up way too much time to receive an answer, and there was no context to help the discussion. A typical back-and-forth would look like this: “What does the word ‘support’ mean at line 635?” “What is line 635?” “It’s part of a website translation project.” “Where does it appear on the website?” “I have no idea!”
Fortunately, today’s translation management systems have solved these problems — not by changing the in-country review process, but by changing the translation process itself.
Smartling’s modern, contextual translation interface allows translators to see exactly how their translations will be used—in the exact context in which they will be published. It allows translators to quickly spot when a translation takes up too much space. It gives translators the freedom to ask for advice and clarification when they need it. It provides them with the means to fully understand what they are translating, so they can deliver the best-quality translation, the first time around.
And, Smartling also gives your in-country reviewers the same opportunity to see and evaluate the translations exactly as they will be published.
Time and time again, we see our customers breathe a sigh of relief as in-country review is converted into what it was originally meant to be — a simple quality check that doesn’t take up too much of their time.