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About Translation Complaints in General

As is the case for any service on this Earth, translation services are subject to the scrutiny of customers with regard to how well a translation meets their requirements. This is not only natural, it is simply human. Even as a customer, it is important to understand what type of complaint you are making in order to make a “good” complaint. Furthermore, by understanding translation complaints in general, it should be a good basis for finding solutions if a translation proves to be dissatisfying.

Complaints can generally be categorized into four categories. These are as follows:

  1. Complaints due to mistranslations caused by misunderstanding of the source text due to lack of linguistic and/or translation ability or lack of experience in the respective specialist field at hand.
  2. Complaints due to negligence and poor proofreading processes.
  3. Complaints due to miscommunication of customer requirements
  4. Complaints due to writing style of the translator

No complaint in the world is unjustified. Working with customers is part of doing business and anyone who has not fully understood that the customer is king probably won’t be in business for very long.

Let’s take a look at these categories in turn:

Complaints due to a misunderstanding of the source text

Even if a person speaks a foreign language fluently, it does not necessarily mean that person can translate well. Translation ability derives from not only understanding the fine nuances of the source language, but also being able to express these in your respective native tongue. This requires an ability and talent to write well and specialist knowledge in a given field. A technical translator is not necessarily a good legal translator and vice versa.

Along with that, it is safe to say that not all translators who translate technical texts are engineers and not all contract translators are lawyers. Later, I will go into this dilemma more in detail.

Complaints due to negligence and poor proofreading processes.

If you receive a translation from a language service provider (LSP) and it is full of mistakes, this probably means that the LSP did not have the text proofread properly or maybe not at all. Due to the fact that we are all human, anybody can make mistakes, but it is up to a second or even a third person to ensure that the quality of a translation is in line with necessary requirements. Remember, even the best translation is not of good quality if it does not meet the needs of the customer. Therefore, when this happens, a solution must be found. Keep in mind, there is a solution to every problem, finding is the sole challenge.

It is always best to have texts checked by a native translator and if the resources are available, it is even better to have another person check the translation that is a native speaker of the source language with excellent knowledge of the target. This ensures that no mistranslations have been made. In addition to this, electronic checks with quality assurance (QA) programs should also be carried out to make sure that the text is not missing anything and that all the numbers in the text match up. Some of this cannot be seen so easily by means of the human eye and therefore, this is just something extra to assure an accurate translation.

Complaints due to miscommunication of customer requirements

This is usually the source of most complaints in not only translation projects, but projects all over the world. Let’s say that you want a text translated for marketing purposes and you end up getting a “boring” text. This is not going to meet your needs. Or what if there are already existing texts that you want your new translation should be aligned with? Well, if these requirements are not communicated properly at the beginning of a project, you are just hoping for good luck on what type of translation you will end up receiving. In light of this, how can you avoid this from happening?

  • Make sure you explain what the translation is for.
  • Provide any existing translations or reference materials available. A  previous translation that you were pleased with is a great start. It gives the person choosing the translator an idea of the style you like.
  • Provide any specific terminology that you see to be necessary.
  • Provide any additional information as you see fit – the more information the better!

Complaints due to writing style of the translator

Keep in mind that everyone has a different writing style. It would be a wise idea to first do a smaller translation with an LSP upon first working with them and see how you like the style of the translation. If you are pleased, make sure to give this feedback to the language service provider. If you are not pleased with the result of the translation, let him/her know this as well. Providers of language services work together with many linguists and it is very easy to change the translator if you are not pleased with the style of the translation. As mentioned earlier, it is quite important to make all of your requirements known since this can greatly increase the quality of the translations, and by quality, I mean that the translation pleases the customer and suits his/her needs in the best possible way.

Many of these processes are described in detail in the European Standard EN 15038. For a little bit more insight on this, please feel free to visit

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