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According to Merriam-Webster, feedback is “the transmission of evaluative or corrective information about an action, event, or process to the original or controlling source”. In the translation sector, this essentially means evaluating a translator’s work and, through practical examples, helping them improve, or letting them know they have done a fantastic job. Fellow linguists (in their role as revisers, editors, or proofreaders) can do this, as can translation agency project managers or quality assurance specialists, and end clients. Good feedback is one of the most useful tools for producing effective translations.

Feedback is essential if you want your business to grow. At Alamma we understand the need to take all feedback seriously, as it enables us to improve the quality of our services and meet our clients’ needs. That is why we always seek our clients’ recommendations for improvement, information regarding their terminological or stylistic preferences, and well-founded criticism. Such feedback ultimately saves both parties’ valuable time and improves quality.

Translations are more than just strings of words on a page; they disseminate information. Both stylistic and terminological mistakes can be costly, whether the translation contains critical safety information about a medicine or is used to market the launch of a new product. That is why feedback is crucial for translation professionals.

How to evaluate a translation

One key feature of a good translation is that it is fit for purpose. It should not contain any spelling and grammar errors and should be suitable for the target audience. For example, slang for body parts should not be used to translate a medical report, while names for illnesses or symptoms derived from Latin (e.g., somnolence instead of sleepiness) should not be used in materials for patients.

Fit for purpose means meeting the client’s expectations and needs. Translation is often more of an art rather than a craft. However faithful they are to the source text, every translator has their own style. Translations often deviate from the client’s expectations. To avoid this, clients need to communicate their preferences and needs, preferably ahead of time, enabling the translator to “calibrate” their language from the very start.

Every project at Alamma goes through a series of quality assurance (QA) procedures as part of our regular workflow. Besides the QA, we make sure translators receive feedback regarding their work. Our reviewers and proofreaders fill in a translation feedback sheet that lists the many types of potential errors, including failure to comply with terminology preferences or the client’s style guide. The feedback sheet, including examples, is sent to the translator for them to check and avoid the same mistakes in future translations.

A fellow linguist gives the translator different feedback from the end client. While the former usually focuses more on grammatical errors, the latter focuses on their preferred style. Both types of feedback are equally crucial to produce a translation that is truly fit for purpose.

How to share feedback effectively

Of course, it is much easier to give positive feedback than to point out flaws. When done correctly, however, negative feedback can strengthen the relationship between partners, improve the translation (including future ones), and facilitate a successful long-term relationship.

When giving feedback, remember to:

  • Set clear expectations, requirements, and preferences ahead of time to decrease the likelihood of miscommunication, misunderstandings, and misconceptions.
  • Pass on negative feedback, but make it polite and productive. General feedback along the lines of “it’s bad” or “it sounds like Google Translate” is rarely useful; instead, focus on what exactly you think needs to be corrected.
  • Provide honest (unexaggerated) positive feedback; if you feel that something has been translated especially well, say so. Knowing what works is as important as knowing what does not.
  • Never look down on the person you are giving feedback to; speak as partners.
  • You may not always be correct, so be open to suggestions; perhaps the alternative is more suitable.
  • Aim to suggest solutions; talking things through may very well give rise to the right/best solution.
  • Avoid being too soft and apologetic; you have the right to expect results.

All in all, feedback is essential to achieving excellence. But it needs to be well-structured. Our experience has shown that no matter how talented and/or experienced a translator is, they must always go through a process of integration, adaptation, and learning about the client’s expectations and language preferences to achieve a level of quality which is best for everyone.

Feedback is important to us at Alamma. If you need translation services provided by a dedicated team, or would like to provide feedback on one of our translations, let us know.