The Dos and Don’ts of managing translation feedback

By Agata Dobrowolska

Team Leader at Polaron Language Services

For me, a translation is like a piece of art. There so many different ways to translate words, expressions or sentences. Translation is a creative pursuit that requires diligence and cooperation on everyone’s behalf. You might be surprised that each translation at Polaron may involve up to four people per language, including our NAATI-certified translators, independent checkers, editors, proof-readers, desktop publishing specialists and the community for whom the translation is written. And of course our clients also take an active part in the translation process.

As an experienced Project Manager, I can tell you that I appreciate everyone’s feedback but navigating through it can be a challenge. My litmus test when it comes to feedback on translation is whether it aims to improve its quality. Because I work with so many languages and don’t speak them all, I also need a clear explanation about what the feedback means. If the translation reads well and reflects the original message as intended, our job as a team is done. As you can probably imagine, handling feedback requires diplomacy, sensitivity but also some heavy-duty assertiveness!

So how can you be sure that the final translation is accurate, fit for purpose and resonates with the intended audience? And what happens behind the scenes? Who decides on whether feedback is accepted or not? Does good quality mean implementing all suggested changes, even if the translator does not agree with the comments? Let’s try to answer those questions in more detail.

Depending on your role in the translation universe, here is your guide on how to give and receive feedback that will enhance the quality of the translation for your community.

If you are a client:

  • We are very grateful for your feedback and will even provide you with a form. This will help ensure that the feedback is useful so that when it’s passed onto our translators, they can follow, analyse and accept it as appropriate.
  • If a bilingual worker from within your organisation is checking the translation, I will appreciate some details about the reviewer. Are they a native speaker of the language? Can they explain their feedback in English in a way that is clear? This will make it easier for me to assess the feedback received.
  • Words and sentences can be translated in many different ways so when you ask for feedback, be clear about what the task at hand is. The role of the community checker is to ensure that the translated text is clear, easy to understand and conveys the intended message.
  • According to the AUSIT Code of Ethics for Translators and Interpreters, “if a translation is a subject to revision or checking by another translator, the revision is returned to the original translator for approval and finalisation”. In the end, the translation is still the translator’s text and that is who has the final say. Polaron’s translators are very experienced and know how to manage feedback that results in improvement of their translation.
  • When your translation is finished, you will receive a traceability report, which will list the feedback and how it was managed. We will also give you the details of everyone who has worked on your translation.

If you are a community checker:

  • Firstly, thank you for your time and feedback. Since you work with the community the translation is intended for, you’re best placed to provide it. Just bear in mind that our translators have put a lot of effort into the translation so please be respectful of their work. The golden rule is: don’t change things unless you absolutely have to. Before you amend anything, consider if it may be your own preference or style.
  • Please indicate the specific type of error and suggest how it should be corrected.
  • Do not rewrite the translation – if you’re concerned about the quality of the translation in its entirety, contact me straight away.

If you are a translator:

  • Remember that the purpose of the feedback is to improve the quality of the translation so I suggest that you read it carefully. Compare the source text and your translation with the feedback from the community.
  • Address comments one by one, even if you don’t agree with them. Consider whether the comments are relevant and whether to accept them or not.
  • You are also tasked with finalising the translation.

One of the best ways of resolving disagreements is to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Let’s collaborate instead of pointing fingers. At Polaron, project managers, translators, proof-readers and clients work as a team and we let the quality of our translations speak for themselves.