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Test Translation Evaluation 101: How to Decide on a Translation Company

April 26, 2023
Test translation refers to a process where a translation company provides a sample translation of a text to help a client assess the quality and accuracy of the translation.
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Every outstanding company knows that the key to success in translation is the effective evaluation of test translations.

Evaluating the quality of translations can be challenging, especially when you are working with a new translation provider. This is where test translations come in. Test translations, also known as trial or sample translations, play a vital role in assessing the translation quality before committing to a full project.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the intricacies of evaluating test translations, providing valuable insights for your company. If you don’t know where to start or can’t find any test translations that fulfill your needs, you might be doing something wrong. Keep scrolling down to find out what is missing.

What is "test translation"?

Test translation refers to a process where a translation company provides a sample translation of a text to help a client assess the quality and accuracy of the translation. Test translations are usually provided for free as a trial run and allow both the translation company and the client to evaluate the translation company's skills, expertise, style, understanding of the subject matter, and ability to meet the client's needs. Test translations can be done for any type of text, including technical documents, marketing materials, and legal contracts. Additionally, they can vary in length, ranging from a few sentences to a paragraph or more, depending on the complexity and context of the text.

How does test translation differ from the translation process?

We cannot expect the test translation and the actual translation process to be exactly the same. They differ in several ways, which can impact the evaluation of test translations. Understanding these differences is significant for accurately assessing the quality of the test translation. Here are some key differences:

Length and complexity of text

Test translations are usually shorter in length compared to full translation projects. This can impact the translation company’s ability to fully demonstrate their skills and expertise. Additionally, the complexity of the text may differ, with test translations sometimes being simpler or more straightforward than the actual translation projects. The test translation may not fully capture the translation company’s ability to handle complex sentences, technical jargon, or nuances in tone and style that may be present in the actual project if the sample text is not long and comprehensive enough to evaluate thoroughly. We’ll further discuss how to select an appropriate text in this blog post.

Time constraints

Test translations are often done under time constraints, as they are meant to provide a quick assessment of the translation company’s skills. However, this can affect the quality of the test translation, as the translation company may not have enough time for thorough research, editing, and proofreading, which are crucial steps in the regular translation process and involve several individuals, ranging from a proofreader to a project manager. The time limitations may result in rushed or less polished translations, which may not accurately reflect the translation company’s true abilities. Translation companies that have carried some work with a client to a higher level can provide readily available resources.

Context and feedback

Test translations are usually done in isolation, without the context of the full project. This can impact the accuracy and consistency of the translation, as the translation company may not have access to relevant background information, previous translations, or feedback from the client or the translation team. Lack of context can make it challenging to accurately evaluate the test translation, as certain nuances or specific requirements of the project may not be evident in the isolated sample.

Collaborative nature of translation process

Translation is a collaborative process involving multiple stakeholders, such as account managers, project managers, and subject matter experts, who provide valuable input and feedback throughout the project. The translation process may involve several rounds of revisions and feedback from the client. However, test translations are typically evaluated by a limited number of evaluators, which may not fully represent the collective feedback and opinions of all stakeholders. This can result in a narrow perspective and may not fully capture the strengths or weaknesses of the translation.

The impact of these differences on the evaluation of the test translation is that the evaluator should consider that the test translation may not be entirely representative of the translation quality in the larger project. However, the evaluator can use the test translation as an indicator of the translation company's skills and ability to meet the client's needs.

6 key points to consider before the test translation process

Before embarking on the test translation process, it is essential to clarify several topics to ensure that you are on board with the translation company and they understand your needs and expectations. Let’s discover how:

1. Decide the responsible evaluators

It is crucial to define who will be responsible for evaluating the test translation before starting the process. This person should have the necessary language skills and subject matter expertise to accurately assess the translation quality objectively. It is also essential to ensure that the evaluator understands the context and purpose of the text and can assess the translation quality in that context. Do not forget to establish clear evaluation criteria and guidelines to ensure consistency and objectivity in the evaluation process.

2. Pay attention to the attitudes of the other individuals involved

In addition to the test translator, several individuals may play a role in the test translation process, including account managers, project managers, and other stakeholders. If your right-hand person is swamped and you have to pick someone else to assign a responsibility, and that person has no idea what is going on, you will find yourself in a professional comedy of flaws.

Collaborative and cooperative attitudes, prompt communication, attention to detail, adherence to instructions, and proper use of resources are all positive factors that can contribute to a smooth and efficient test translation evaluation. Conversely, vague instructions, a lack of response or coordination, poor quality assurance, insufficient research, and disregard for instructions can result in negative outcomes in the test translation process.

3. Communicate your style and tone

Does your company have more of a "What’s up there?" or "Dear client, we sincerely hope you are doing great!" style?

As you can see, these are two extremely different styles, and it is important to inform the translation company of your desired style and tone for the final product. The style can vary depending on the type of text, audience, and purpose. This includes aspects such as formal or informal language, writing style, and specific guidelines for branding and marketing messages. If you prefer informal language, then it is better to use language like the first example above, but if your preference is using formal language, then using sentences as in the second example is more appropriate.. For these reasons, providing a style guide or examples of similar texts can help the translation company understand and deliver a translation that resonates with the target audience.

4. Set your terminology expectations

"Our athletic leisure wear is perfect for a comfortable weekend on the couch.”

Doesn’t it sound a bit weird? Imagine you are working at a sportswear brand and you need to get your products translated. Specifically, you want the translation company to use the term “casual sportswear”. However, because of a miscommunication or lack of sufficient information, the translation company prefers to use “athletic leisure wear”. This is exactly why you should specify your terminology preferences.

Decide if there is any industry-specific terminology that you want the translation company to use in the text and provide the translation company with that information. Specify if the translator should adhere to a specific glossary, use company-specific terms, or follow established industry standards. Consistency in terminology is crucial for maintaining the integrity and accuracy of the translated content.

5. Identify which resources to avoid

Are there any specific resources that you want the translation company to exclude? Identify these resources and inform the translation company of any resources that should not be used as references for the translation. This may include machine translation tools, unreliable online sources, outdated glossaries, or previous translations that do not meet the desired quality standards. By specifying these limitations, you can ensure that the test translation is a true reflection of the translation company’s skills and not influenced by external factors.

6. Select an appropriate text for test translation

At this point, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed, which is pretty normal. It is essential for the text to be representative of the content that will be translated in the actual project. This means that the text should be similar in terms of complexity, tone, subject matter, and style to the text that you want to be translated in the larger project. It should be challenging enough to test the translation company’s skills but not so difficult that it becomes unmanageable. Ideally, the text should cover different aspects, such as technical terms, cultural references, and industry-specific jargon, to evaluate the translation company's expertise comprehensively. Additionally, the text should be long enough to allow you to evaluate the translation quality thoroughly. A good rule of thumb is to select a text that is around 300 words long.

Green and red flags

Now you know what test translation is, what it equips you with, and what expectations you should set before the test translation. The next stop is to identify the positive and negative indicators that demonstrate whether a translation is successful or not. Follow the below signs to assess a test translation effectively:

Positive signs vs. negative signs

  • Accuracy vs. inaccuracy : A well-done test translation should accurately convey the meaning of the source text in the target language without significant errors or omissions. Test translations with frequent errors, mistranslations, or omissions indicate a lack of understanding of the source text or insufficient language skills.
  • Consistency vs. inconsistency : The translation should be consistent in the use of terminology, style, and tone, in line with the expectations defined before the test translation process. Test translations with inconsistencies in terminology, style, or tone may indicate a lack of attention to detail or an inconsistency in the translation company’s approach.
  • Naturalness vs. unnaturalness : The translation should read naturally and fluently, as if it were originally written in the target language. It should not feel forced or awkward. Test translations that sound awkward, stilted, or do not flow naturally may indicate a lack of fluency or proficiency in the target language.
  • Adherence to guidelines vs. non-adherence : The translation should adhere to the guidelines, style guides, and terminology provided, demonstrating the translation company’s ability to follow instructions and meet the desired quality standards. Test translations that do not follow the provided guidelines, style guides, or terminology may indicate a disregard for instructions or a lack of attention to detail.

It is important to consider the context of the test translation, the complexity of the text, and the constraints under which it was done when evaluating these signs. Providing specific feedback to the translation company can help improve the quality of the final translation. However, make sure that the translation company is responsive and willing to incorporate feedback and revisions. If not, this is also a huge red flag. Keep in mind that finding the right professional help requires being keen-sighted.

Final touch

Test translations are a useful tool for assessing the translation quality and evaluating a translation company's skills and expertise. Always remember that, given the constraints at hand, your expectations won't be entirely met during the test translation process. By understanding the differences between the actual translation process and that of a test translation, clarifying your expectations, and paying attention to positive and negative signs of a test translation, companies can effectively evaluate test translations and ensure the highest quality of translations for their target audience.

Thanks to this guide, you are now ready to run a successful test translation evaluation that will contribute to your overall effectiveness in meeting your company’s translation demands.

We are always here to provide innovative solutions to your translation-related problems. Feel free to contact us now for any questions or needs.

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