Last year, former interpreter Nataly Kelly, author of the book Found in Translation, wrote an article in the Huffington Post entitled “Ten Common Myths about Translation Quality.” In the post, she runs down ten tactics that inexperienced translation service buyers often think will help to ensure translation quality, but may actually harm quality and waste money. Her main points are worth repeating.
Myth #1: Bigger is always better. Unless you have a very big business yourself, a big translation agency may not pay as much attention to your needs as a smaller one will. A smaller agency will also probably take more time to investigate and work with your particular requirements. Experience, testimonials, a good quality control system and a willingness to work with your business are what really matter.
Myth #2: All I need is a translator. Just as you use editors and proofreaders for your important English material, you want to have translated documents reviewed as well. No matter how good a translator is, they can make mistakes. If you are concerned about the best quality, make sure that your translation price includes independent proofreading.
Myth #3: More translators will result in better quality. Just like other service providers, translators actually become better at translating your content efficiently as time goes by. They come to know your particular terminology and style preferences. A good language service provider will also maintain a translation memory of your content to ensure consistency in future translations and to save you money on repeated content. If you have recurring translation needs, you will want to use the same provider consistently to get these advantages.
Myth #4: Pitting one provider against another keeps quality in check. You have a second translation provider review a translation and they make a number of changes. How do you know that the reviewed copy is actually better? Are the changes actually corrections of mistakes or are they just style preferences? Is the second provider honestly pointing out things that need to be corrected or are they just trying to get you to switch your translation work to them? Using an in-country reviewer and getting feedback from native language users of the materials is more helpful in gauging quality problems that may exist.
Myth #5: Getting a “back translation” from a second vendor will ensure quality. First of all, if you are not familiar with judging a back translation, you may think there are errors that don’t really exist. One of our previous blog posts was entirely on the subject of what clients should look for in a back translation. Secondly, if you get a back translation done by a second provider, how do you know that any mistakes that exist weren’t introduced during the back translation? Where a back translation is required, use the same agency for both parts of the translation to ensure a smooth reconciliation process.
Myth #6: Bilingual employees will provide me with helpful quality feedback. Bilingual employees are not necessarily good judges of a translation. Just as everyone who speaks English doesn’t have good language skills, someone who speaks another language may not be that good at it. Employees who are asked to review need to be given strict guidelines about what corrections they should make, or you may just end up with a bad rewrite. Employees can be good, for example, in knowing the proper translations of specialized industry terms.
Myth #7: Translation quality control works well. To do their best work, translators need to have reference materials like style guides and glossaries the help them put the work they are doing in context. Editing and proofreading won’t necessarily correct problems causing by misunderstandings due to a lack of context or misunderstandings of specialized terminology. Supply your translator with any helpful references you can at the beginning of the process and don’t just rely on a quality control process.
Myth #8: My source content has no impact on quality. Translators also need a clearly written source with as little ambiguity as possible. Lack of clarity in the source text can easily cause many “errors” in the translation.
Myth #9: Technology should be avoided. These days experienced translators use computer aided technology (CAT) tools to help them perform translation more efficiently and with better quality and consistency. We’ve often warned about issues with machine translation, but the term translation technology doesn’t only include machine translation. Use of the latest CAT tools is a good thing to look for in a translation partner.
Myth #10: When you ask for a “translation” you’ll get the same services from everyone. This idea is basically the same as thinking that all you need to compare is price. Even when you get quotes from two providers that seem equally experienced and dependable, what they include in their price for “translation” may be different. You should be clear on what is included in each quote. Does the quote include proofreading? Does it include localizing graphics in the text? Does it include formatting your document like the original? Unless you are sure that you know these answers, you may be comparing apples and oranges.
The real question with translations is whether they accomplish their purpose. With marketing materials, you probably want to eliminate errors as much as possible and have the text flow as smoothly as possible. With other materials, it depends upon the purpose they are meant to serve. That’s why MTM LinguaSoft offers different levels of translation quality, but always strives to get a translation that will meet the client’s specific needs.