14 Steps to Deliver High Quality Translations

(Updated version) Naturally, the success of any translator depends on the quality of his or her work. Make sure your translations are always flawless:

  • Accept only jobs that fall into your area of expertise. Do I have to say more?
  • Always plan your translation ahead, even before accepting it, this way you can assign enough time for the proofreading to be done well.
  • If you believe you need more time for the job than the deadline allows, ask for a longer deadline up front and explain why: that quality takes time. This usually works (except for real rush jobs), because often the client does have a bit of a leeway.
  • Especially when you are working with marketing material, ask for the marketing brief (target group, marketing objective, layout, media …) or other important information like possible space limitations in the final product.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask your client questions and don’t take it for granted that the source text is perfect – there may be errors or spelling mistakes that are confusing and thus time-consuming.
  • Always activate the spell and grammar checker of your software so that you can instantly recognize possible errors. Tip: If the software does not point out ANY errors, chances are good you haven’t activated it at all because almost every text contains proper names or highly specialized terms that your software does not know.
  • If you are really stuck with a term or sentence, move on to the next one to avoid frustration and time constraints, but don’t forget to highlight it!
  • Do not translate if you are even a tiny bit unsure. In editing translations, I’ve seen so many wrong translations that I have to mention this. Those wrongly translated sentences always look logical when seen alone, but they don’t really make sense or fit the context, so when I do an in-depth research I usually find that the translator simply hadn’t understood the sentence properly. Use tools like Linguee.com to avoid that – they deliver terms in sample translations which makes it much easier to determine the real meaning.
  • Talking about editing: If you know that a second translator is going to edit your translation, don’t fall into the trap of doing a half-hearted job, simply because you know that someone will find all the errors anyway.
  • Disaster check: Depending into which language you translate, the volume of the target copy is always a certain percentage higher or lower than the source copy. Do a character count – if the result does not match your experience, you should check whether you forgot to translate something or maybe even double-translated something.
  • Proof-reading: PRINT YOUR TRANSLATION. This is much safer than reading the copy on your computer screen – I’ve learned that the hard way. Especially look for errors your software cannot find. In English, this would be terms like then and than, or were and where. Read your translation out loud. This is more efficient because you can find errors more easily, and you can also check the flow of your sentences. Pronounce EACH SYLLABLE. I bet you’ll be surprised how many typos you will find this way ;-).
  • If possible, do something else before starting your editing and proofreading. This way you will see your own translation with fresh eyes, and you will probably also come across expressions and terms that can be optimized.
  • If the translation is to be published (print or web), insist on doing a final proof after layout to ensure no errors or unfortunate initiatives have crept in during the design process.
  • And last but not least: Check the formatting of your file. Does it have to comply with any guidelines? If not, make sure it looks professional and is easy to read.

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