When is your translation finished?

September 28, 2015
When is your translation finished?

At one time or another we’ve all had that nagging feeling that the work we have just handed over to the client could have been done better. For professional translators, knowing when a translation is finally finished can be tricky, particularly when deadlines are looming. 

Translations are easy to start but can be difficult to finish. There are always tweaks that can be made, alternative words that might sound better or sentences that can be re-ordered in order to improve flow. There is no one standard quality assurance test that can be applied to all translations to check that they are done. 

So how do you know when the translation that you have been working on is finally finished? Here we offer some hints and tips to help in your assessment. 

Quality control

As a translator, you are responsible for the quality of the work that you produce. Your professional reputation will largely depend on this quality, as well as on your ability to meet deadlines and to communicate with your clients in a timely manner. It is an entirely subjective test, but you need to ensure that each and every translation passes your own internal quality monitoring system. 

This can be hard when a deadline is approaching fast, so always ensure that you build in time to go over the document you are working on as often as it takes to hit your own quality standards. Industry insiders advise ensuring that the quality of each translation is equal to or better than the last in order to keep your clients happy. 

Cost benefit analysis

Think through the benefit of spending another hour going over your translation and balance that against the standard of what you have already achieved. If payment is per word then committing an extra hour (or more) to review the document is not going to earn you anything extra for that job. However, if doing so improves the standard and the client is impressed, then that extra hour might just be the difference between the next job being given to you or to another translator. 

Really this comes down to trusting your instinct – you have to be your own judge and decide the point at which committing more time becomes uneconomical in terms of the benefit it will bring. 

Pair up

One way to tackle ensuring that each translation is truly finished is to pair up with a fellow translator in order to proofread each other’s work. You don’t have to read the whole document each time – a few sample paragraphs should be enough for you (and your fellow professional) to judge whether a translation needs further work. 

Of course, you should be sure to have a confidentiality agreement in place before sharing any client information. 

Final thoughts

How do you check that your translation is finished before handing it over to the client? What are your final quality assurance steps? Let us know via the comments box.