How to Evaluate the Quality of Translations When you Don’t Speak the Language

Everywhere you look, translation providers claim to offer “high-quality translations” or “the best service”.

But how can you tell if your translation is good when you don’t speak the language?

In this blog post, we’ll help you identify high-quality translations and find the right language partner in the first place. You’ll also discover sure-fire ways to trust the quality of your end product and improve your content process for the future.

Need some pointers? We’re here to help. Get in touch!

What is a high-quality translation?

To know whether your translated content is up to standard, you need to first identify what “high quality” means to you and your team.

A high-quality translation:

  • contains no grammar, punctuation or spelling mistakes or typos.
  • contains no omissions (left-out words or phrases), additions or mistranslations.
  • captures the meaning of the original text.
  • reads naturally and is not a word-for-word/literal translation.
  • takes into account context, culture and local specifications.
  • sounds human rather than machine-translated.
  • adheres to the client’s requirements.
  • is consistent within itself.

Starting the translation project off right 

Finding a trustworthy translation agency is crucial to achieving high-quality translations consistently. A professional translation agency will be able to handle your specific requirements and produce high-end results, adhering to relevant industry and quality standards.

Ideally, you’ll strive for a long-term partnership, develop trust and stick with your chosen language service provider, making it a win-win situation.

To help you do so, we’ve put together a guide to choosing the right translation agency.

How to evaluate the quality of translation: 4 tips 

Evaluating the quality of a translation is difficult – especially if you don’t speak the target language.

But don’t worry! With these tips, you can assess your translation regardless: 

1. Request a back-translation

Many language agencies offer back-translations as an additional step in their overall translation process. The way this works is that the final translation is translated back into the original language. This gives you the opportunity to check your translation in your own language after all.

A back-translation isn’t intended for public use. Instead, it gives you a sense of whether the translation still carries the same meaning as your original piece.

Here’s an example of a back-translation that we at Plume Rouge have done for one of our clients:

ORIGINAL ENGLISH:

As Fashion Revolution Week kicks off again to campaign for a better fashion industry, we’re eager to share our vision for the future and outline the steps we’re taking to improve the industry along the whole supply chain.

FRENCH TRANSLATION:

Alors que la Fashion Revolution Week est de retour et milite pour une industrie de la mode plus équitable, nous sommes impatients de vous dévoiler notre vision de l’avenir et de vous présenter les mesures que nous prenons pour améliorer l’ensemble de la chaîne d’approvisionnement, mais aussi l’industrie de la mode.

BACK TRANSLATION:

As Fashion Revolution Week is back and strives to make the fashion industry more sustainable, we are eager to reveal to you our vision for the future and to introduce to you the measures we are taking to improve the whole supply chain as well as the fashion industry.

Ask your agency about the possibility of a back-translation for your content.

2.   Have your translation reviewed in-house by a native speaker

Once you get your translation back from your agency, have an in-house team member review the end result against the original text. Make sure the reviewer is fluent in the target language, or even a native speaker (if you don’t have one, see tip no. 3 below).

Does the text carry the meaning of the original? If so, great. If not, the quality isn’t there yet and needs to be reworded. In this process, your team should also catch any grammar errors or typos that may have been missed. Ideally, there wouldn’t be (m)any left at this point.

Beware that marketing materials require more freedom in their translation approach to address the target market in a culturally appropriate and effective way. This is where transcreation comes in. It’s important to keep this in mind when checking the end result.

The same holds true for additional services that were applied to your project, such as SEO translation or multilingual keyword research.

We’ve put together a quick checklist for your in-house reviewer to better assess whether your translation is up to standard:

What to look out for during a translation review:Yes:No (follow up):
Does the translation convey the same meaning as the original text?  
Does the translation read naturally?  
Is the translation free of any grammar, spelling or punctuation errors?  
Is the translation consistent throughout?  

3. Have your translation assessed by an independent reviewer

If none of your team members are fluent or at native speaker level in the translation language, you may consider consulting an external reviewer to perform a final check. This will cover all your bases, reassuring you of the quality of your content.

Here are a few ways to find an independent reviewer:

  • Your existing network: Direct referrals are often the most reliable way to go. Do you already know a language professional who works in your target language? Have any of your industry colleagues worked with a proofreader they can recommend?
  • LinkedIn: Start with your own contacts. You can, for example, type “reviewer [language]”/“proofreader [language]” in the top search bar → “People” and filter by “Connections” and even “Location”.
  • Upwork: To find talent on Upwork, type your relevant search terms in the top search bar. Read reviews to get a clear idea of what type of content these external reviewers can help you with.

Do you have a previously translated project you would like to have checked? We at Plume Rouge are happy to provide you with our trusted proofreaders across a variety of languages. Get in touch!

4. Use machine translation for a general overview

If you don’t have an in-house native speaker and can’t afford an independent reviewer, you can try using machine translation.

While machine translation is under no circumstances good enough that it should be used to translate content in the first place, it allows you to gauge the quality of your translation.

One example of a machine translation software is DeepL, a so-called neutral machine translation tool that’s widely used within the language industry. We don’t recommend Google Translate other than for words or short phrases.

Bear in mind that the free version of DeepL shouldn’t be used for confidential text or sensitive information, as outlined in their privacy policy.

How to improve translation quality

You should now have a clearer idea of what high-quality translations look like and how to assess them.

But what if the quality of the translations you receive is still not what you expect?

This doesn’t necessarily mean your translation agency is doing a poor job. There could be other factors at play, such as flaws in the brief or communication. The importance of a good brief can’t be overstated. Sometimes all it takes is a little tweak here and there to get the high-quality product you deserve.

Here’s what you can do to achieve better results in the future and minimise extra workload.

Organise your process

Be crystal clear on what you expect from your project.

Do you have a glossary, also referred to as a translation memory or term base? If so, make sure to pass it along to your agency. If not, consider creating one – your translation partner can help you with this step.

It might seem like extra hassle in the beginning, but will pay off in the long run, especially for repeat projects. Essentially, term bases become better and more refined the longer they’re in use. This can also have a direct impact on the speed and cost of your future projects.

Bonus: Do you have a preferred style manual? Common ones include APA and Chicago. Let your agency know about this as well.

Provide as much reference material as possible

Having a good brief is the difference between a project’s success and failure.

The more information you can provide your translation agency with, the better the results will be. Apart from the above-mentioned glossary and style manual, you can include:

  • translation-accompanying material, such as images, videos, sound.
  • previously translated content, ideally with feedback included.
  • realistic timeframes and milestones.
Be curious about your agency’s procedures

Ask your agency about their quality assurance process.

If they structure their jobs into well-organised steps (translation + multiple quality checks), you can be all the more assured that quality will take priority. That’s because breaking down bigger projects into more manageable tasks avoids confusion from information overload and helps with focus and concentration.

It’s also common practice for language agencies to apply so-called linguist matchmaking. This ensures that a pair of equally qualified linguists, who are familiar with your industry, work on a project together. The purpose behind this practice is to achieve consistency, especially for large and recurring projects.

Stay flexible and provide feedback

To keep the communication between your business and your translation provider going, it’s crucial that you remain available for ongoing queries.

Also, give feedback that comes to mind when reviewing your translation piece in-house. As mentioned earlier, many errors are more subjective and preferential. Your translation partner will appreciate this for future projects and be able to better tailor their service to your specific needs.

Ready to improve the quality of your translations?

High-quality translations are an integral part of your global content strategy – and “good enough” just won’t do.

You want to delight your target audience with content that conveys your brand’s intended meaning and style and truly resonates with them.

And with a trusted and well-organised translation agency by your side, you’re already halfway there.Building a trusting relationship with your translation agency can set your international content strategy up for success. Interested in starting your translation project? Get in touch with us, it’s kind of what we do!



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