proofreadingClients sometimes ask us to review a translation that has been done by an employee or some other affiliate of their organization. When they do, we work with the client to make sure we are providing the level of scrutiny they need. The extent of the review depends on who did the translation and what it will be used for. The cost of the review will vary accordingly.

Here is a list of the “types” of original translators clients usually describe to us.

Machine Translations:  If the initial translation was done by Google Translate or some other software, then a service referred to as Post-Editing for Machine Translation (PEMT) is necessary. In general, Machine Translation should be used only under certain circumstances.

  • If the source or target languages are common European languages such as English, Spanish, or German, and the subject matter could be considered “boilerplate,” the time spent by a reviewer might be minimal. Certainly the reviewer will need to closely compare the target and the source. This will cost more than editing a human translation, but less than doing the translation from scratch.
  • If the source and target languages are radically different in structure such as English and Arabic, Korean, or Chinese, the PEMT will take just as much effort, and cost just as much, as a translation from scratch. We would recommend starting over with a human translation team.

Employee / Subject Matter Expert:  In some cases, a subject matter expert with professional experience in both the source and target languages has done the translation. This is often the case in highly technical fields with specialized terminology such as engineering and medicine.

  • If the employee’s native language is the target language, for example, if a native Japanese speaker is translating from English into Japanese, and the employee has strong English comprehension and strong Japanese writing skills, we would recommend proofreading by a subject matter expert, to make sure no typos and small errors have occurred.
  • If the employee’s native language is the source language (for example a native English speaker translating from English into Japanese), the job will usually require a heavier edit by a native Japanese subject matter expert, because rewriting of some sections will probably be required to make sure the translation reads fluently. This may include many preferential changes to ensure the style is correct, and will cost more. It is a “rule of thumb” in the translation industry that only a native speaker can create text that reads naturally.

Professional translator or translation team:  In other cases, a client needs a review of a translation that has either been done by an in-house translator or outsourced to a freelancer or an agency. In these cases we will want to know why and where the client expects to find problems.

  • If the original translator was a trusted professional without subject matter expertise, we would want to find a subject matter expert who could review the document for technical accuracy and terminology.
  • If the client knows there are problems with the original translation, and wants to clarify where the errors are, and how serious they are, we can use our QA Model for Linguistic Quality Assurance to quantify and qualify the errors. This could be provided along with the corrected text.
  • If the client wants to check on the quality of another vendor, and has no idea if there are problems, then we would instruct our reviewer to focus on accuracy, not style. In this situation, we would want to avoid “preferential changes,” which could be changes made from personal taste simply to make a text “read better.” These are often subjective. In this situation it would be better for the reviewer to focus on outright errors so as not to introduce more uncertainty for you, the client. Unethical translation providers might overstate the seriousness of the problems in order to win your business away from the original vendor. This is another instance where the QA Model becomes a useful tool.

Being absolutely clear in describing your needs will make the process go smoothly and result in a deliverable that you can use. For more information about reviewing translations, see our post Three Important steps for a Smooth In-Country Translation Review Process.

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