“The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon. You can always do it better, find the exact word, the apt phrase, the leaping simile.”
– Robert Cormier
Translation is like writing in the sense that without revision, it would be pretty much useless. Lawmakers, medical professionals, politicians, and businesses working in international settings rely on translations. Their work will be a thousand times more difficult if one day they discover that they cannot trust the written word. But how do Language Service Providers (LSPs), such as us, ensure the target text is indeed correct.
Well, there are many ways to ensure quality in translation. Here we list the six most popular ones:
Source and Target Text Proofreading by a Native Speaker
This is pretty much the industry standard. A target text native speaker reads over both the source and target text to check how accurate the translation is. This is an efficient proofreading method and–unless the source text is extremely difficult–one of the best ways to ensure the final product is free from grammatical and language mistakes. A second proofreading may be necessary to capture mistranslations if the source text is arcane or overly technical or difficult to parse for any reason.
An alternative is to allow the source language native speaker with a good knowledge of the target language take a look at the translated text. This is quite an underrated method, but it has its strengths. One of the key advantages involved with this method is that the proofreader can understand all the nuances in the source text and judge if the translated text captures them. The proofreader can identify potentially problematic areas, which the original translator can always fix.
Although expensive, back translations are a very effective way to ensure quality. It involves telling an independent translator, who has no knowledge of the original text, to take the translated version of a document and translate it back into the original language. Comparing the two source texts with each other makes it easier to identify inconsistencies.
This method is popular among pharmaceutical companies. It is also used extensively in marketing materials, surveys, questionnaires, protocols, reports, and anything that contains sensitive or high risk information.
It is similar to Back Translation in the sense that two translations are involved. It is also different because two translators work independently from the same source text. The proofreader or project manager can compare both target texts. The method, although considered foolproof, is not used much because of the prohibitive costs involved. It simply doubles the expenses and the costs do not always justify the benefits. Doubling your work, irrespective of the industry, is something that is normally avoided.
Proofreading without Looking at the Source
This is a very efficient and rapid method to proofread translations if they have been done by an experienced translator. Unsurprisingly, this is also the most common method used in the translators’ community. Reading the target text alone, without any reference to the source text, is a way to make sure the text sounds natural, not translated.
Although some will argue that this is a text editing process, not proofreading, we are of the opinion that when combined with other methods it can ensure accurate and natural translations.
Reading it Backwards
This is one of the most frequently used methods in the editing industry. It entails reading a text from the end all the way to the beginning. The idea is simple: Reading backwards does not allow your mind to lapse into sleep, thereby maintaining a high level of concentration during the proofreading process. Reading backwards is a great method because it does not allow the editor or the proofreader to reflect on the text, channeling his or her focus on grammar alone. Once you have read a text backwards, do not forget to read it in the usual manner later.
Electronic or Machine Checking
This is arguably the easiest form of proofreading. You invest in a tool, such as Grammarly for English, paste your text in it, and let it do grammar and word checking. This method is extremely fast and efficient. LSPs can proofread thousands of pages in a few hours; find inconsistencies in translation, common spelling mistakes, and other common errors. Although electronic checking is powerful, it is irresponsible to rely on it alone. Electronic checking can be the first line of defense in a large project, but a text cannot be considered proofread until it has been reviewed by a human.
Overseas DTP relies on electronic checking and native-speaker proofreading for most of its translations. But it can also adopt Back or Double Translation in the process if your job demands it. If you are interested to know how we will ensure accuracy in your project, simply write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be glad to explain.