//Translation Quality: The Role of the Reviewer

Let’s face it, if you have dealt with translation projects, you know translation is complex, subjective and definitely not an exact science. Translation Quality often conjures up differing thoughts in the minds of people. There is more to consider than a right or wrong translation. Reviewers (a bilingual client-side) have varying linguistic preferences.  One reviewer might think a translated project is just perfect, while another might find fault with the same translation. Reviewers in your organization hold a lot of influence. Those that provide you feedback will strongly influence your perception of the quality of the translation work. For this reason, is important for you to keep some key points in mind when deciding who to assign as your reviewer.    

The Role of the Reviewer

A reviewer is the person clients select internally who will “review the quality” of a translated project. The highest client satisfaction in translation occurs when the client designates a reviewer at the beginning of the project, who then collaborates with your linguistic provider. The role of the reviewer is not intended to detect linguistic issues like grammar and spelling in the finished project, but to weigh in on in-house vernacular, regionalism, tone, style and brand direction.   

Sometimes clients do not select a reviewer at the onset of the translation project launch because they are unable to find someone that can do this. But often time, when the translation is complete, they find and share the document with any bilingual person for review. Post-project-completion-search for a reviewer, often leads to not so happy results. The reason for this is the reviewer did not provide the linguists with his or her preferred elements to be built-in the translation project. 

Ensuring translation satisfaction begins early in the pre-project phase. Quality results happen when your reviewer and your vendor’s linguist plan ahead and set parameters for terminology, culture, style, tone and brand management. Let’s take a closer look at these key elements of translation satisfaction.


Ahhhh, regionalisms… If a linguist were to pick any one area of most concern to his work, it would be regionalisms. Top consideration should be given to regionalisms because this is where requesters who do not know the target language, will depend heavily on that bilingual “someone” as reviewer after the translation is complete. The entangling begins when the reviewer is a speaker of the target language but not from the same region of the translated text, and detects a word or phrase he/she does not recognize. That reviewer will red-mark that term and will probably find other regional terms that are actually correct, but not commonly used in his or her country. This reaction can place immediate doubt in the mind of the requester. Then, a series of not so happy events can follow.  Suddenly, time and effort will be allotted to untangling the issues that could have been prevented by managing regionalisms at the onset of the project. These include regionally-appropriate word choices by informing the linguist about the target audience and regions targeted. To use an English example, your reviewer might tell your linguist to translate into “British English” where the word “lorrie” should be used, or “American English” where “semi-truck” is the right choice.  Notice, both terms are correct, but one is more appropriate for a particular region. This happens not just in Spanish, but also where same-languages are spoken in different countries, such as Arabic from the Gulf region and from northern Africa. The language is
the same, but different words are used for one meaning. This doesn’t make the choice wrong.


Style is the way something is written, such as the tone. Tone is the attitude of a writer toward a subject or an audience. This is another highly important area where reviewer should take the time to express his desires in advance of the translation project. These include the tone of your translated documents, whether formal or informal, technical or general, or even playful or somber. For example, in Spanish, there is a big difference between “tú” (informal) and “usted” (formal). They both mean “you”.  But the former might be perfect for addressing a young generation, where the latter might be better accepted in a memo to the executive team. Both are correct, but each can evoke differences of opinion.

But wait!

What if you don’t have an in-house reviewer in a language to help plan your translation project? Does that mean you should skip the planning phase? Even in English, issues of regionalism, terminology, culture, style, tone and brand management, can and should be discussed up front. Clients who wish to work with a linguistic vendor team for the long-haul, should consider planning and costs around the use of a reviewer when no reviewer in-house is available. This will add slight additional costs to the process, but the money will be very well spent. There is no substitute for planning style, regionalisms, company jargon, without the help of a reviewer.

In most companies, there are often bilingual personnel that can act as reviewers. But often time there are languages of lower diffusion (exotic languages) where staff is not available to assist in the linguistic concerns of the company. In this case, a company should consider authorizing a third-party reviewer that can work with your linguist. See your linguist provider to assist you in helping you select the right reviewer for your company.

There is more to come on this topic. Stay tuned for solutions related to satisfaction quality and the role of the reviewer.