Quick Guide to Quality Translation – Part I


Translation and localisation errors can be expensive for any business. Some companies learn this the hard way.


At the start of the 1970s, American Motors exported its car “The Matador” to Mexico and Puerto Rico: Spanish speaking countries with lots of car accidents caused by the poor condition of the roads, where the model’s name proved to be a poor choice in this particular target market

Britain’s HSBC bank had to spend $10m in 2009 to correct a serious localisation mistake: in many countries, their slogan “Assume Nothing” was translated as “Do Nothing”.


These examples demonstrate what can go wrong between the original term to be translated and localised and the final result. Because a method or process is needed in order to avoid these mistakes, we have put together this quick guide to quality translation.


  1. Start by defining “quality”

What constitutes quality may vary according to the type of Translation Services provided. Depending on the projects and the approach, a translation can be fluid and more “free”, or it may prove necessary to sacrifice style in favour of technical accuracy. Establish clear goals and guidance.

  • The translation must meet the goals of the client’s business or project.
  • There should be a thorough revision of the content, if possible by repeating the process more than once, to catch any spelling, lexicographic, grammatical or even formatting mistakes.
  • It is important to pay attention to those factors that may hinder the translation of a text or the localisation of a project. The social and cultural sensitivities of the target market must also be taken into account and, if necessary, the content adapted through transcreation.


  1. Teamwork!

Translation is often a solo effort, but in large projects, as described here, it is difficult to meet the quality guidelines without some mistakes slipping through. This is why many clients prefer to turn to translation agencies and other language service providers that employ teams of professionals. If you are a freelancer, it might be worthwhile “teaming up” with a group of fellow professionals and dividing up the work into a structure something like this:

  • Ensure the project is managed by a project manager who is a specialist in the field (legal translation, finance, website localisation, marketing, medicine, etc.) who can coordinate the tasks at hand. This manager should be the point of contact with the client.
  • The team ought to include translators working in most (or ideally all) relevant languages, who should also be specialists in the same areas of work.
  • The team should also include proofreaders (translators and support staff can also fill this role). All of the content created must go through a multistep revision process.
  • Ideally, all translators and proofreaders should be native speakers of the target languages to ensure the content if entirely appropriate for the target market.

Depending on the type of project, the team may also incorporate content creation specialists (copywriters, design and editing professionals, other technical staff), as well as an editor who will be responsible for the final approval and formatting of the document to be delivered.

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