Part of a well-organized and well-executed localization strategy is making sure that your translated content is carefully reviewed in each language. This is commonly referred to as in-country review. The review, itself, does not necessarily happen within the boundaries of the country. However, an in-country reviewer is someone who speaks the translated language extremely well. In fact, it is best to use a native speaker of the translated language for in-country review.
People who have been around the localization industry for a while understand the importance of in-country review and the critical role that an in-country reviewer plays in ensuring high-quality translated content. Unfortunately, I’ve been meeting more companies these days who do not have anyone reviewing their translated content. The content goes from the writer, to the language services provider, and straight to the customer.
These very same companies spend hours and hours having subject matter experts (SMEs) review the source content for accuracy and the word usage for brand. They spend hundreds of thousands of dollars paying lawyers to try to minimize liability by enforcing compliance with warning labels on the outside of a product and ensuring that trademarks are strictly adhered to. Yet, these companies have no idea what their content says once it is translated into another language. They spend time, money, and effort to create accurate content, only to lose control of the content at the very end of the process by not validating the translations.
This paradox makes me scratch my head. I simply do not understand it.
In-Country Review has Its Problems
Admittedly, there are many issues with in-country review that make it difficult to have all content checked in all languages. Let’s look at four of them.
In-Country Review is No One’s Job
In an ideal world, in-country reviewers are employees of your company, who are native speakers of the language that your content is translated into. They are intimate with the nuances of not just the language, but the culture, as well. These are people who understand your products, services, and brand. They understand the purpose of the content and the target audience.
Some companies have regional offices in locations worldwide. Usually, these offices are staffed by native speakers. However, none of the employees have the job title, “Senior In-Country Reviewer.” If your company is lucky enough to have employees to work on in-country reviews, these people have other, more pressing jobs to do – the jobs that they are measured on and compensated for. For example, I’ve seen sales managers from Europe participate in in-country reviews. I’ve seen admins in Asia-Pac reviewing translated content. The “volunteer” reviewers may or may not be SMEs for the content they are reading. And you can be sure that the first emergency that comes along in their real job will have them tossing the translated content down and moving on to the tasks they were hired to do.
There are More Languages than People to Review Them
More companies are translating more content into more languages all the time. Just because you have an office in Europe does not mean that you have people in the European office who speak every language in the entire region. As you translate more content, the ability to find an employee who even speaks the language (never mind a native speaker) becomes more difficult. Imagine translating content into 84 languages and trying to find an employee to review each translation. A daunting, if not impossible task.
There is No Time to Properly Review the Translations
Even if there are people available to review each and every translation, there is usually not enough time in the schedule for a quality review cycle to occur. Translation comes at the very end of a product launch or content release. By the time the content gets to the translators, the product is usually late, people are waiting, and money is being lost with every passing day.
The translation review process is just as important as the source content review process. And reviewing content in any language is just as important as making sure your product works. Content needs to be treated like a product – it has a lifecycle that needs to be planned and followed. Otherwise, you end up with inaccurate information in all languages.
Not only do the translators need time to do their work, the reviewers need time to do theirs. And time needs to be included for the translators and the reviewers to iterate. It is not enough to send translation to review. The translator needs time to receive the review comments, go over them, and ask for clarification. Sometimes, it takes several iterations to get things right.
There is No Money to Properly Review the Translations
Often, localization budgets are very tight. Many companies do not understand the value of paying for high quality translations, which means having money to conduct in-country reviews. By the time the content gets to translation, the money has been spent elsewhere.
What’s a Multi-National Company To Do?
Let’s face it, the likelihood of having a fully-staffed team of in-country reviewers, who have plenty of time in their schedules and enough knowledge about the product and brand to do all of the translation reviews is slim. But there are things that all companies can do to make sure their translations are properly vetted.
Have Your LSP do the Review
This is the most common solution to the problem of not having employees available for in-country review. Most LSPs can supply a second person to review the translations. You need to make sure you ask your LSP for this service and they will charge you for it. While having a second set of eyes on the translation is helpful and certainly better than no review, the additional person probably does not understand your product or brand any better than the initial translator. It is important that the translator and the reviewer have access to someone at your company to answer questions.
Use a Third Party for In-Country Review
Some companies use a second LSP to review translations done by the first LSP. I think using a second LSP is an acceptable way to make sure you have an independent review by a native speaker. I think a second LSP is likely going to be more picky about quality than an additional person from the original LSP. It’s just the nature of business.
Of course, the third party will not be intimate with your products, services, and brand. That problem remains. But he or she should be knowledgable about the language and the culture that your content is destined for. The more context and additional information you can supply to both the translator and the reviewer, the better.
If all else fails, and you cannot afford to have every translation properly reviewed, at least spot check some of the translations. It pains me to list this as an option, because I think it is a terrible idea to publish any translated content that has not be reviewed. But, I suppose checking some content is better than checking no content.
If you embark on a spot check for translation, make sure you have an action plan for the possibility of finding problems. If you find problems during your spot check, you will need to look into the issue further. So be prepared to do a lot of digging, retranslating, and throwing good money after bad.
Elevate the Importance of Translation
If your company is counting on purchases in other countries, everyone in the company needs to understand the importance of localization, translation, and in-country review. Senior management, legal, engineering and development, marketing, sales, training, documentation, quality assurance, technical support – all departments in your company need to think about your global customers first, not as an afterthought. By putting your global customers first, the importance of comprehensive reviews for each language will hopefully become obvious. And if it doesn’t become obvious, then you will need to educate everyone. Otherwise, your organization may learn the lesson only after you have an overseas debacle.