You need a multilingual content quality audit. Yes. You. You do. If you translate (and, really, who doesn’t translate nowadays?), it is almost certainly time to evaluate the quality of your translations.

How can you tell? Here are five reasons that you might need to take a good look at the translations you are publishing.


1. Rumor has it that one or more of your languages is sub-par.

Anecdotal information is, perhaps, the most ubiquitous way of learning that your translations are in need of assistance. I have many customers who have said to me, “I’ve heard through the grapevine that our translations are not good.” Unfortunately, hearing things anecdotally is a blessing and a curse. One the one hand, it’s good to know if something is of poor quality. On the other hand, anecdotal information is not always reliable. And it certainly doesn’t provide much information. For example:

  • Which language(s) are problematic?
  • Is the problem limited to certain content or is everything in that language poor?
  • How do you (Mr. Anecdotal-Providing-Person) know this to be the case?

Still, if you hear it enough times, it is likely true that at least some of your translations are not up to standard.

2. Your conversion rates are low.

If you are keeping track, reviewing analytics, counting click-throughs, and so on, it is possible that one or more languages are not performing as well as the others. If this is the case, something about the content for those languages is likely a problem. For example:

  • The translated words are inaccurate.
  • The words have been translated correctly, but they do not make sense.
  • The words are correct, but the message is meaningless or culturally inappropriate. (Cheeky marketing messages don’t necessarily stay cheeky when they are translated. Cheeky in one country is not cheeky in all countries.)
  • The layout of the translation divides concepts so that the reader cannot follow. (Think German. Long German sentences. Think design. Now think about splitting up a long German sentence to suit the design, without understanding the impact.)

3. Your region(s) refuse to use the translation.

If employees in the region refuse to use the translation you have provided, it is likely that the translation is not good. It could be the translation itself. Or, it could be any of the reasons outlined in #2.

4. Your region(s) create their own content.

If your region creates its own content, usually it’s because the content you provided is not good. Unless you have a marketing team located within the region (and it is transcreating content specifically for the region), no one in the regional office has the job of creating content. And they are busy. For them to spend time creating content means they don’t like yours. That’s a problem for many reasons:

  • You don’t know what they’ve created (and you couldn’t read it if they sent it to you anyway).
  • You don’t know whether their content is on-brand.
  • Your legal team might just go a bit apoplectic.
  • You already paid lots of money to have your content translated. Instead, it is being ditched and now the company is paying for additional content to be created.

5. Native speakers are knocking on your door, calling your cellphone, texting, tweeting, emailing, and putting nasty messages on Facebook.

If native speakers take the time to tell you that your translations are poor, the likelihood is that your translations are poor. Rather than ignoring them and hoping they go away, perhaps you need to validate their claims.

How do you verify the accuracy and appropriateness of your translations? By doing a translation quality audit. How do you do that? Watch this space for the answer soon!

Val Swisher
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