Many people don’t bother to find out exactly how their documents will be translated once they have given the material to a freelance translator or translation agency – all you know is you have this material in one language and you require that it is converted to one or more other languages.

However, understanding the process of translation will help you appreciate the rates charged and timelines required as well as what is required from you in order to make the process seamless for the service provider.

Stage 1: Translation

This is the main part of the process, and it involves rendering a piece of text from one language to another. This must be done accurately, considering both actual and implied meanings and context, both of which affect how the final document will be interpreted by its readers.

Translation is usually made possible by a CAT tool (computer-assisted translation tool) like Trados or Wordfast. These tools work by dividing the piece of text into segments, usually sentences or clauses. The translation tool then translates the segments one after another. CAT tools are commonly used in the industry since they make work easier, particularly where there are larger works to be translated. However, they can never take the place of an actual translator, since they are not able to understand and convey implied meanings, hence the need for the subsequent stages.

Stage 2: Editing

The next step in document translation is edition, which refers to the process of reviewing the translated manuscript rendered by the tool in the above process. The translated script is compared to the original document. This process is carried by the translator assigned to the project with the assistance of a translation tool.

The translator goes through each segment (sentence/paragraph) to ensure that the CAT tool made an accurate translation of each segment. He/she also takes time to confirm that the text can be fully understood, that no information is missing and that any special requests and instructions the client gave have been fully adhered to.

Because they are still working with the tool, they will not be able to see the text in its entirety and hence things like implied meanings and tone may not be adequately covered at this stage, necessitating the following step.

Stage 3: Proofreading

This is the final state, and it is also referred to as the correction stage. At this stage, the original document need not to be referred to; it focuses only on the document’s entirety. The purpose of this review is to ensure that the document flows naturally and can be followed effectively in the target language. At this stage, any inconsistencies will be detected including minor grammatical, punctuation and other errors.

At this stage, the translator also checks the document formatting to identify an issues in fonts, images and typographical errors. Once the translator assigned to the project is finished, another translator goes through the script just to make sure that nothing goes unnoticed.

For successful translation, all three steps must be effectively followed in order to ensure that a high quality translated script is presented to the client.



The author is an experienced document translator, having worked for more than a decade doing document translation, localization and interpretation services. He has shared many articles in various forums on related topics.