7 Common Problems With In-Country Translation Quality Assessment and How to Steer Clear of Them

Steer clear of common translation quality assessment problems

You’ve seen this before: You receive a translation from your Language Service Provider (LSP) and send it to your offices abroad for a translation quality assessment. If you already have established workflows and have worked with the same teams for a long time, everything should run smoothly. But, conditions are not always ideal and every now and then hitches occur. For example, in-country reviewers may not be content with the quality of the translation delivered by your LSP, or they complain about inconsistencies.

As the go-between, it is usually your job to sort things out again. Interestingly, these in-country complaints are often due to reasons that your LSP has little control over. However, with some preliminary considerations you can avoid these obstacles the next time.

Problem 1: Different Source Texts

The source language is not always English. Because some reviewers in the local offices may not always possess the language skills necessary to completely understand the source text, they use the English translation as a reference, or they work without a source at all. This is a situation in which different translation quality assessments are very likely to occur because the reviewer simply has a different starting point than the translator. To avoid such a situation, have the source text translated into English first and ensure that the quality is impeccable. Provide it together with the source and target texts so that the reviewer is on equal footing with the translator and can provide a translation quality assessment that is accurate.

Problem 2: Different Terminology Resources

Terminological consistency is key for a quality translation. Therefore, most LSPs maintain terminology databases. These databases are used during the translation process and should ideally also be used by the in-country reviewers. To avoid terminological ambiguities and deviations, and to keep the terminology databases accurate and up-to-date, they should be approved in advance and adhered to during the in-country review process. To ensure this happens, provide the in-country reviewers, if at all possible, with the same terminology resources that the translators use.

Problem 3: Source Text Contains Errors

Obviously, since errors in translations do occur from time to time, reviews are indispensable. Many errors can be traced back to an ambiguity, terminological inconsistency or simply a typo in the source text. Most of the time, such issues are resolved during the translation process – if they are noticed early enough and queries can be resolved by the client. However, if this doesn’t happen, they will emerge as translation errors during the in-country review. In such a case, it is important that the necessary corrections in the source and target texts are forwarded to the LSP, so that they can fix their translation memories and avoid errors in future translations.

Problem 4: Disagreements on Content

Even the best translation is still a translation! It must rely on the source text. If the reviewer disagrees with the content, they should consult with the marketing or technical documentation department and discuss what needs to be changed in the source material. The language service provider is not allowed to make any editorial changes without the client’s explicit approval. Most LSPs are more than happy though to perform transcreation or copy-editing services for their customers. Consult your provider to find out about their service portfolio and about establishing a workflow that fits your needs.

Problem 5: Doubts About Translators’ Professional Expertise

The in-country reviewers are no doubt highly qualified professionals in their own fields – as are the linguists at your LSP. The vast majority of translation professionals hold at least one university degree in translation or linguistics, they translate from the foreign into their native language and they have many years of experience in the field they are working in. Clients can rely on their expertise and diligence. To be sure, ask your LSP about the training and professional backgrounds of their translators and whether they have regular translators assigned to your projects.

Problem 6: Subjectivity of the Reviewer

Language is manifold. There are always many ways to express the same idea. If a reviewer feels a word or sentence should be expressed differently, they might want to change it. Preferential changes by the client, although always welcome, cannot be considered actual translation errors. However, they should be incorporated into the LSP’s translation memories and databases so that future translations reflect the client’s preferences. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to provide your LSP with feedback.

Problem 7: Lack of Clear Guidelines for Reviewers

Last but not least: It is natural that reviewers make changes during the review process. Leaving the whole text in its original state would render their work superfluous. Hardly any professional can afford wasting their time with activities that turn out to be unnecessary. Changing some terms or phrases, or even rewriting passages, is often interpreted as proof of a good review. However, make sure that your in-country reviewers know exactly what they are supposed to do in their revision. Invest some time in putting together clear-cut guidelines. It will pay off quickly. Also, ensure that the changes requested from your reviewers are returned to your LSP so that they can implement them in future translation projects.


How to Perform a Good Translation Quality Assessment

Considering the following three guiding questions can help a great deal when reviewing.

Functionality: Does the text reflect its intended function correctly and completely? Is it technically and factually correct? Depending on the type of text it is, the linguistic shape will differ.

Comprehensibility: Will your intended reader be able to easily understand what the text is about?

Suitability: Do style and register serve the intended purpose?

Are you responsible for translation reviews in your company? Download our handy guide to make sure you remember best practices for a good translation quality assessment!



Katrin Marheinecke works as a Business Process & Quality Manager at text&form in Berlin. After earning her Master’s degree in Slavic and American Studies and Linguistics, Marheinecke moved to Eastern Europe to work in the field of German as Second Language. In 2006 she started out in the language business as a translator and editor. In 2007 she joined the text&form project management team. Her versatile insights in the translation process make her the perfect resource to analyze translation workflows from every angle. Since attaining certification as a Quality Representative in 2012, Marheinecke is more dedicated than ever to the task of identifying areas for improvement in the quality assurance process.