Translation Quality Tactics – Proofreading

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There are many ways to ensure translations quality which mainly include various types of proofreading. Finding the right solutions can be a challenge. Here is an overview of different methods that can be used. The key is to use a combination of several different methods in order to ensure that your text is at the quality level you desire.

Overview of the document format only

To explain what this is, imagine you have a French text that has to be translated into Russian and you have no abilities in these languages at all. Well, in fact, you can still proofread the document to a certain extent. This entails looking at formatting elements such as indentations, bullet points, and text embellishments (bold, italics, underlining), ensuring that they have been properly transferred into the target text. In addition, provided that the numbering system is the same in both the source and target languages, these aspects can be checked for completeness in the translation.

This is the most inexpensive form of proofreading, but allows for a large room for error, seeing that linguistic aspects are not examined at all. So, in fact, a person can use this method and the translation still might be riddled with mistakes.

So why use it? First of all, it is a very quick method to see if the translation is complete. Many project managers use this method before they send the text on to the proofreaders. It saves a lot of time and you would be surprised at how many things in the translation you are able to pick up by doing this. For this reason, many dumping-price agencies only use this method claiming to do “full proofreading” of the documents (and thus assume that the original translator has done all the proofreading work).

All in all, a great method of measuring the completeness of a translation, but if this is the only method used, buyer beware!

Source and target text proofreading as a native target text speaker

This is pretty much an industry standard. While having a view of both the source and the target text simultaneously, a native speaker reads over the text checking to see if the translation is correct. Depending on the skills of the proofreader, this can be a very efficient proofreading method. It is also one of the best ways to ensure that the target text contains no grammatical or language errors. For very difficult source texts however, this can lead to problems if the proofreader does not fully understand the text. So, although the translated text should be free of linguistic errors, there is still the possibility that the text contains a mistranslation. This is where it is very important to have a qualified proofreader look at the work performed. In some cases, a second proofreading may be necessary depending on the difficulty of the text.

Source and target text proofreading as a native source text speaker with good knowledge of the target language

This is quite an underrated method that is actually a considerably good way to ensure quality. In fact, one of the key strengths involved with this method takes into consideration that mistranslations, which are taboo in the translation industry, are largely avoided. As a native speaker of the source text, you understand the text completely in all of its nuances. If the proofreader has sufficient knowledge of the target text, he/she can still judge if the text has been translated correctly even without being not at a native level. Here, it has to do with identifying doubts in the translation. If doubts are identified, the original translator can always be asked.

There is another aspect involved if the end customer receiving the translation is a native of the source language. Most likely, he/she will most likely analyze the text in the same way that the proofreader does. In this way, the questions that the proofreader has or the things that the proofreader notices are the same things that the end customer might notice or even ask. Therefore, this method of quality control can be very effective, but please note, from a language perspective, linguistic errors can still be present in the text.

Back translation

Back translation, although very expensive, is a very effective way of ensuring quality. This is where the text that is translated is translated back to the source text by another translator. Comparing the two source texts make it very easy to identify inconsistencies in the translation.

Double translation

This entails translating the same text by two different translators and comparing both target texts. Although this may be a practically full-proof method of translation checking, it is very expensive and the costs may outweigh the benefits. Doing double work in any industry should normally be avoided. It is just not practical.

Just proofread the target without looking at the source

Assuming that the person who has translated the text at hand is a very good translator, this is a very efficient way of making the text sounds natural. It is also a method that most translators use after having finished proofreading against the source text. This method entails reading the target text alone in a natural manner to make sure that the text itself sounds natural and not “translated”. You could actually say that this is not really a proofreading, but rather a text editing process. Although this method ensures natural sounding texts, it should always be used in combination with one of the above methods to ensure that everything has been correctly translated too.

Proofread it backwards

One of the most famed methods in the editing industry is to read a text from the end to the beginning. This is a great method because it does not allow your mind to fall asleep, thus maintaining a high level of concentration during the proofreading process. It also does not allow your mind to reflect upon the subject matter of the document. In this way, it is possible to fully concentrate on grammar alone. Just don’t forget to read the text from the beginning to the end in addition to this method!

Electronic checking

There are many tools available for electronic checking and most word processing programs also include a grammar and spell checker. There are also many very efficient QA programs that have been designed just for the quality control in translation that are capable of finding many translation inconsistencies as well as ensure that terminology requirements are upheld. For more detailed information on this topic, please see my other blog entries on translation quality assurance programs.

Please note that, although electronic checking can be very useful and are capable of picking up many small things that the human eye misses, these must always be used in combination with human proofreading methods. The human eye is and always will be the best quality checker out there.

So, which one?

The bottom line is you have to decide what the translation is going to be used for. As mentioned in the above, a mixture of electronic checking, format checking, and human methods should be used. Which ones should be used depends on the translation at hand and its purpose. Having the text translated and then proofread by a second native-speaker translator of the target language is the industry norm that is recommended, but all methods are not 100 % full-proof, so you have to decide which is the best method for the text at hand.

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