How To Assess the Quality of a Translation: A Quick Guide to Understanding It Better

The world of translation is prone to challenges and pitfalls. Even the best translators make mistakes from time to time or misunderstand some of the content they are translating. In fact, in any language, there are many different ways in which we can unintentionally mislead our audience by using words that seem familiar to them but have a very different meaning than what is intended.

This article aims to give you some pointers about how you can assess the quality of a translation to avoid falling into these traps and pitfalls. It’s advisable for anyone who has anything to do with the translation industry and its various processes—even if it’s just as an end user—to be able to understand how things work, what makes one piece of work better than another, and where the potential weak spots might be. The tips below will give you an insight on how you can better understand translations so that you know when there might be something amiss, catch mistakes quickly, and reduce risk wherever possible.

What is a translation assessment?

A translation assessment is a thorough review of a translation to check for any potential issues. It can happen at different stages of the translation process, for example before the translation is sent out for review, or after it is completed and ready to be sent to the client.

Typical areas that are assessed include a review of the translation’s structure and flow, the content’s coherence, the grammar, spelling, and syntax, as well as its cultural sensitivity. The assessment can be done by the end client, who may have the expertise and knowledge to spot potential problems, or by a professional translation review service. These services can be helpful for people who don’t have the time, training, or expertise to do a thorough review, or who just want to make sure that the translation they are receiving is of the best quality possible.

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Read the original content before you assess the translation

This may seem like an obvious one, but make sure that you have read the original content before you start to look at the translation. This is because you are likely to notice a lot of mistakes and issues when you read the translation side-by-side with the source content, but not when you just read the translation on its own. This is because when a translation is done, the words are substituted with different words in the target language, and you may miss mistakes that are actually present in the original text because you’re too focused on the translation.

Look at grammar and vocabulary accuracy

The source and target texts should be fully consistent with each other. If one uses a certain word or phrase, it should be used consistently in both texts. It’s also important to check that the sentence structure and grammar are correct and consistent. Make sure that the translator has followed the style guide that you have given them, and that they are not over-extending or misinterpreting the style guide. There are a few things that you can check for. This includes checking to see if there are any rare or incorrect words used and making sure that the words that are being used are not too technical for the target audience. You can also review the way in which tenses are used, making sure that they are consistent and correct.

Check the consistency of a translation

When you go through a translation, look out for the repetition of certain words and phrases. There should not be any noticeable changes in the style or flow of language, and there should be no repetitions of words that should not be used in the same context. If you notice that there is a sudden change in vocabulary, a change in the level of complexity of the language, or if a series of words have been repeated, make sure to highlight these issues. This can be a sign that the translator has run out of words and is repeating themselves to fill the gap.

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Cultural Awareness and Sensitivity

Many words and phrases can have different connotations in different cultures, so always make sure that the translation has been culturally sensitive. If your content is being translated into other languages, make sure that the translator has the cultural and linguistic know-how to make your content culturally appropriate for the target language and culture. This means that you should check for any words or phrases that can be misinterpreted, or that can be deemed culturally insensitive. For example, if you are translating your content into Spanish, be careful with words like ‘vacation’ or ‘weekend’ as they can have a very different meaning than what is intended.

Check for discrepancies in dates and numbers

If your content is related to numbers and dates, make sure that they match the source content. For example, if you have a date mentioned in your content, that date should be consistent and correct in the translation. Another thing to look out for is any numbers that are used in percentages. They should be consistent between content and translation.

Spelling and Grammar

Finally, make sure that the translation is consistent in its spelling and grammar. For example, if you are promoting a new product or service, make sure that the equivalent word in the translation is spelled the same way. You can also use a grammar checker to spot any inconsistencies and make sure that the translation has been proofread for consistency.

Check the formatting

Finally, make sure that the translation has been formatted correctly. Check for issues such as inconsistent spacing, line breaks, and hyphenation. A word of warning: make sure that you are not being too picky or fussy when you are reviewing a translation. If a word or phrase is incorrect, but it is not significant enough to change the meaning of the content, it is probably not worth mentioning. That being said, if the content is very important and you want to be sure that everything is correct, then you should certainly let the translator know. The more picky you are during the review process, the more likely it is that you will end up with a higher-quality translation.

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A translation assessment is a thorough review of a translation to check for any potential issues. It can happen at different stages of the translation process and is usually done by the end client or by a professional translation review service. When reviewing a translation, make sure that you read the original content first, check for grammar and vocabulary accuracy, look at the consistency of a translation, and check for cultural awareness and sensitivity. Finally, check for spelling and grammar, and the formatting of the translation.

As an expert translator and technical writer, my professional journey has spanned a multitude of domains, each enriching my skills and passion for linguistics. In my current role as founder and CEO of Writeliff, I channel my expertise and enthusiasm into leading a dynamic team dedicated to delivering exceptional translation and localization services.

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