Translation Inconsistencies & How to Avoid Them

When a translation project is very extensive, the most common thing to do is to divide the translation among different linguists in order to speed up the process, thus allowing us to deliver the project as quickly as possible. It is almost never the case that there is an unlimited amount of time available to finish a project.

But by letting multiple translators into the game, we are also opening the door to a potential translation enemy: inconsistency. For instance, a word, term or expression that is repeated throughout the text can be translated in different ways by each translator, which can generate confusion and different interpretations for the reader. When we read a document and find that a word was translated in three different ways, the first thing we ask ourselves is: what is the correct translation? Maybe only one is appropriate, given the context. Or maybe all three are valid, thus diversifying the vocabulary of the document.

In order to solve this type of problem and “unify” the terminology, we rely on the editing step, in which other aspects such as spelling, grammar, or erroneous translations are also corrected. This is why when there are several translators, the ideal is that there is only one editor who can see the whole picture and smooth out any wrinkles.

The lack of consistency becomes an even greater risk when it comes to a multilingual project. This implies that there will be one editor per language since hardly anyone masters all of the languages and can ​​make sure that all the translations are harmonious, so to speak. Here, we’re not just talking about words being translated in different ways, but also words that can or cannot be translated in different languages, ​​such as names of products, institutions, films and TV characters, etc. Sometimes there are clear instructions from the beginning on what to translate and what not to translate. Other times, this decision is left up to the translator, who is ultimately the one most familiar with the culture and customs of the country or region in which the document will be presented.

The best solution is to provide the greatest amount of reference information possible to the translation team. This can be complementary material to better understand the context, past translations that have a similar vocabulary, and of course glossaries, terminological bases and translation memories. This way we can guarantee consistency in the content of a text and also follow along the same line of any other previously translated document.