The truth is that, when it comes to language, a small mistake can cause a big problem. There are several issues that can be caused by mistakes in translations. From bad translations that have almost started wars between countries, to simple grammar mistakes that can make a company look unprofessional to its clients.

To avoid these issues, a professional translation service always involves some kind of quality control. There are many resources that a good translator or translation company keep handy. I’ll tell you a few.


shouldn’t talk about this one, because it’s mandatory. Some translators choose to proofread their translations one or two days after finishing, which usually has a better outcome, but deadlines don’t always allow it. Companies, however, usually use a different linguist to proofread the translation. This is the optimal solution because, despite correcting any possible grammar mistakes or typos, translation options can also be discussed between two professionals.

Customer orders

good translator knows their customer and listens to their specifications. If the linguist has questions or is not sure about their work, they can always get in touch with their client and ask them for the best option.

When it comes to companies, this is the role of the project manager or the account manager. These are the people responsible for knowing their clients’ businesses and localizing their communication. At this point, you may wonder what would a client think when a project manager calls and asks “how do I translate this?”; well, in my experience clients take it really well. We all like people we can trust, and someone who calls you and asks for your opinion, allowing you to participate in their work, for the concern of your business and your money, is clearly someone you can trust.

Translation memories

Microsoft word is pretty much alive but translation in Word has had its day. So, today, translators and translation companies use Computer Assisted Translation software (or CAT Tools, as we call them — and no, it’s not machine translation!). This software uses Translation Memories, which are basically files that store all the previous translations. So, what do professional translation service providers do? They have one Translation Memory for each client. This means that, for every new translation, they can check how that paragraph was translated in the past, thus increasing consistency and minimizing possible translation mistakes or ambiguous translations.

Term bases

CAT tools also use term bases. Term bases are basically multilingual glossaries and usually a service provider also has one per client. So, if you entrust your communication to a professional translation service provider, they will most likely create a glossary just for your company, with all the technical terms you want to use. During the translation, whenever there is an occurrence of such terms on the source text, the translator will be prompted by a warning saying that they are on the term base and if he wants to use them. This increases consistency and assures that all technical terms are translated the same way in all translations and according to the client’s specifications.

Quality Assurance software

Yet more software up a translator’s sleeve (which in some cases is a pyjama sleeve). There is also Quality Assurance software. What does it do? It basically searches for inconsistent translations in a whole document. For example, adaptation mistakes like numbers separated by commas instead of full stops and vice versa, mistranslations like when a number is different in the source text and target text, and many others. Some of this software can even check the final document against a translation memory and a term base to see if everything is the way it’s supposed to be.

Linguist selection

Specialist linguists are also a good way to avoid major translation issues. Usually translators avoid going out of their comfort zones when texts become too technical, to ensure the quality of the translation. Some linguists specialise in one or two areas (e.g. mechanical engineering and construction) and they don’t really like to work with any other topics.

Translation companies, on the other hand, have many translators on their speed dial. In order to ensure the quality of technical translations, the source texts are examined and technical translators are chosen accordingly. With the right translator, the probability of major issues is substantially smaller and proofreading will be much faster. This way, deadlines are met and quality is ensured.

Client feedback

Although this is mostly common practice of translation companies, all linguists should request feedback from their clients once in a while. The benefits are obvious: you see what you got wrong and then you get it right! Companies use this a lot and international standards demand it. Whether the client gives good or bad feedback, it will be used to improve the translation service and quality control.

All in all, there are many quality control methods. The more a translation service comprises, the better the result will be. That said, when requesting a translation service, make sure to aim for a linguist or company that offers a specialised translation service with proofreading by a second linguist, that uses translation and quality assurance software with translation memories and term bases, that listens to your specifications and keeps you posted on what’s happening with the translation (either by giving you feedback on the progress or by asking you questions if needed) and, last but not least, that requests your feedback to improve their services.

Brought to you by , at your service. November 14 2018