314-725-3711 | Since 1998

Do you understand the translation process? Many think that the translation process is a single transaction. You provide the content and it gets translated by a translator and then it is delivered. This process may be true if you work in an office and work with an internal staff member translating your materials. It seems to be a fairly straightforward process. However, this is not the recommended process followed by most professional translation firms.

Understanding the translation process

The Role of the Translator

A group of translators In this blog, we look at the role of the translator and editor. What exactly is the role and responsibility of our translators and what’s the value of having an editor work on the same project together? The main goal of this process should be to improve quality, but it does take more time than just working with one individual translator. However, that single translator may not be able to deliver everything that is required from a quality translation, including:

  1. Provide accurate translations reflecting accurately what is said in English, or
  2. Provide creative writing that captures the intent of the message, and
  3. Provide grammatically correct translations without spelling mistakes
  4. Apply culturally and regionally accurate considerations
  5. Provide a tone and style that either matches English or desired for the target audience or through a style guide
  6. Provide relevant terminology either accepted in the industry, company or in the community where the translation is served
  7. Be consistent with previous materials, and
  8. Work productively

In understanding the translation process, let’s look at the reality of the role of the translator. For the most part, the translator sets the tone and style of the translation and does everything they can to be 100% accurate all the time. It’s typical for translators to go through translation and do some self editing after their first draft. Technology can be used to ensure quality as well, using Terminology Databases and Translation Memories to assist them. However, no translator can spend countless time working and reworking a translation either.

Furthermore, every translator has their strengths and weaknesses. Much of it is affected by the emphasis of their study and background. Some translators are strong linguists with good experience, but they may not be an industry expert. Some industry experts went into the linguistic business and are solid translators, but may need help creatively in style or tone. It’s human work!

The Role of the Editor

Image of spellcheck being used in Word to help in Understanding the Translation processThat brings us to why editors are important in understanding the translation process. The role of the editor is different from just proofreading, although it is a part of it. An editor also looks critically at the translation and gives recommendations to fine-tune or discuss terminology. Sometimes an editor is specifically chosen to fill a gap, such as deep industry experience. Sometimes editors also fulfill the role of the regional expert, especially when the target audience consists of a population with different backgrounds such as Spanish in the US.  In larger volumes of work, editors are often there to provide consistency of tone and style if many translators work on the same job. An editor can look at a translation from a fresh perspective and has more time to look at the language in detail, taking into account the needs of the end user.

Editing is sometimes a process that extends beyond the Translation Firm’s processes. Client Review can be a critical part of the process, but as we mentioned earlier, it’s often not a very well planned process with clients unless you agree to strict guidelines. The same goes for the editing process here. Editors are to work with the translation and it’s up to the Translation Firm to ensure that the translator was selected with the right qualifications and background. Editing is not a place to rework translation or to set the tone unless it is to make it consistent.

Back to the Translator

feedbackEditors provide important feedback that translators should receive. The final step in our translation process (not every Translation Firm does this) is to have the translator go through all the edits and approve or reject the changes. This also facilitates a dialogue between translator and editor that can result in standardization of language for future use. It allows a translator to have final say and own the tone and style of the translation. Glossary work is also an important aspect of regular translation work in order to reduce the editing process and be consistent.

The Role of the Translation Firm

Professional Translators and Editors are accomplished experts in their field. Translation Firms ensure that the job fits the expertise of the team and provide support in the preparation of content for translation. Without going into the cost of translation and value of Project Management, which we wrote about earlier, there is a skill to finding the right team for the job. Some jobs require productivity, while others are more creative. Some require more technical expertise such as subtitling work or transcription work. Writing for narrative takes a different approach than writing a brochure. And when you are dealing with language that is both technical and marketing, you’ll want your Translation Firm to be mindful of your target audience. An overview of our translation services also highlights our core competency of translator selection for a particular project.

When translators are allowed to focus on their job by removing the burden of preparation work or pre-flight, this allows time to work on the many different aspects of translation and get out a quality job. That’s what you should expect from a Translation Firm to deliver and give you the confidence that your investment into the process is going to pay off.  You should expect that your Translation Partner is certainly a partner in your success!