Client Review for Translations: Setting Expectations

We’ve been working on a lot of translation projects at Artisan recently. I enjoy them. I like seeing and hearing all of the different languages, and it’s an interesting change of pace. As much as I like it, though, translation can sometimes be a bit of a challenge. An issue I’ve faced recently revolves around client review.

First, a little background. Client review is standard practice with every translation vendor I’ve worked with. The process goes like this: The vendor provides the translated text files and then waits for approval from the client before proceeding with voiceover recording and integration into the authoring tool.  Here’s why this is a valuable stage in the process:

  • First, everyone makes mistakes, even linguists. What are the chances that every word in a 30 minute course is going to be perfectly translated, with not a single spelling or grammar error?
  • Second, there are certain industry terms that may be difficult to translate. It’s a good idea to make sure those are being conveyed correctly.
  • Third, and most importantly, it is very expensive to fix translation errors after audio is recorded and the new text is integrated into the course. Most voiceover artists charge a minimum fee, even if they’re only recording one slide’s worth of audio. Finding mistakes after the fact can be very costly and can also affect the project’s timeline negatively.

So, a client review sounds good, right? It ensures correctness and potentially saves money. And for the most part, it is good. The problem creeps in when reviewers over-review. They cross the line between proofreader and editor. Instead of looking for true mistakes in grammar, spelling, or punctuation, they start looking for better ways to say things. It’s a tough line to draw—and an easy one for a reviewer to cross. It’s important to remember, though, that translation is more art than science. The same paragraph can be translated a bit differently by two different linguists…and both of them can be correct. Fixing an error is critical.  Wordsmithing is an unnecessary use of time and money.

To avoid the “over-reviewing” issue, my suggestion is to set very clear expectations with the client. Provide information about what things the reviewer really needs to watch for. It might even be helpful to provide a checklist or some DOs and DON’Ts. This will pay dividends in at least two ways:

  • The client review will be completed more quickly. Rather than focusing on re-writing large chunks of text, the reviewer can focus on (and find) the issues that are most crucial: the errors.
  • The translation vendor will be able to move to narration more quickly. Vendors like to have the original linguist respond to all of the suggested changes. If many of those changes aren’t really needed, the linguist spends an unnecessary amount of time responding, which can delay the process. In translation, even one lost day makes a difference.

We are experimenting with a system to classify the issues found in a translation review.  We hope that this will minimize the edits required and reduce the number of changes suggested in the future.

  1. Critical correction:  The original translation was wrong to where it changed the meaning, and the content was no longer accurate, or it became incomprehensible.  (For example, the original translation might leave out the word “not,” which would reverse the meaning of a sentence.)
  2. Phrasing correction:  The original translation wasn’t inaccurate, but it was phrased in a way that someone would never really say it—even though you could still figure out what it meant. (We’ve all seen examples of this in English, such as “Please to always wear the glasses of safety.”)
  3. Wordsmithing: There wasn’t anything really wrong with the original translation, and there isn’t anything really wrong with the suggested correction.  No net gain.
  4. Bad suggestion: The suggested correction is actually wrong.  (For example, we had a situation where a client asked to remove an accent in a Spanish translation, which would mean changing “yes” to “if.” The original “yes” was correct, and the suggested change was wrong.)

As you can see, taking the time to review the translated text can help save time, save money, and improve the quality of the translated courses.  Realize, however, that it also takes time and money to do these reviews, which can be especially tricky if the client does not have anyone to review in each of the target languages.

For more information on handling your translation projects, check out Nick’s blog post, Tips for E-Learning Translation.

Tammi Ritter
Artisan E-Learning

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