Different Ways of Testing a Translation

December 25th, 2014

Doing quality control on translation work involves using one or more of five basic techniques for testing translations.

Different Ways of Testing a Translation | One Hour Translation

Translation is like any other discipline – you will encounter people who are better at it than others. Some are brilliant but lazy, some are very dedicated but plod along, slow if steady. One problem that has afflicted translation services consistently throughout its history is the problem with determining what is a quality translation – in other words, how to test and judge the work done by a translator. It is unfortunately not always easy to evaluate a translator on sight. While there are standards and certifications, there are still many old-school translators who lack many of these things yet do incredible work and are very much in demand.

As a result, there have evolved several methods for testing translation work so you can be assured of the quality being achieved by your hired translator. While some agencies or clients have developed their own specific techniques (of varying usefulness), there are pretty much five distinct techniques that are commonly used to test translation work.

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The first is simple: A self-check where you read your own translation and compare it directly to the original source text. While you may subconsciously overlook errors because they’re errors you make in a blind spot, this technique does at least catch simple mistakes and conceptual errors you can make when you work on something piecemeal.

Back Translation

I’m not a fan of back translation, wherein the target text is then translated back into the source language by a third-party translator. It’s expensive, slow, and doesn’t always mean anything, as the varying level of skill on the part of the translators has a lot to do with how the back-translation turns out.

Comprehension Testing

This simple test can be very useful. A person fluent in (and preferably a native speaker of) the target language reads a section of the translation, and is then asked to describe what they have read. If they have difficulty, or if they cannot piece together the meaning of the text, then obviously there is a problem.

Readability Testing

In this test, the same exercise is performed: A fluent speaker is asked to read the translation, only this time it’s read out loud. The metric here is how easy it is for them to read your work. Every stumble, hesitation, or point of confusion is noted carefully. The goal is to have no rough spots where a fluent speaker stumbles.

Naturalness Testing

The final test can be useful, but is a bit harder to define. What you’re asking a fluent reader to do is read the translation and make note of any portion that seems unnatural to them – awkward constructions, unusual vocabulary choices, what have you. It takes a trained tester to be able to do this effectively, however.

So there you have it: Five ways to test translation work. Using one or several of these techniques, you can usually determine whether your translator is doing the job. The best way to make sure you are working with high-quality translation standards, is by using One Hour Translation's services. At OHT, although translation is done only by professional & native-speaking translators, each translation is reviewed and rated in order to ensure maximum quality. Start translating with One Hour Translation today! 

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