Reviewing should be a straight-forward and simple task — to re-view, to look at it again. The lack of clarity, experience and knowledge turns this simple task into a mismanaged and inefficient workflow step in most translation environments I have seen.

  1. No Ego — Reviewing is not about imposing personal preferences on a translation. It is about understanding that there typically is more than one correct way of expressing the same concept and about looking at a text the way the end-users will look at it.
  2. Using the right tools and using them correctly — I find it nearly impossible to review a translation without a solid translation CAT tool. A CAT tool is a software that typically brings together the text, translation, translation memory and list of key terms all onto the same screen. Just as important as the CAT tool is its use. If the glossary (list of key terms) is not up to date and comprehensive, ensuring consistency takes up excessive mental bandwidth and is imprecise. Most translators and reviewers I know do not have the habit of feeding the glossary as they go through the translation. They consider it time consuming and don’t really see the purpose. I notice that if I feed the glossary consistently, the glossary starts working for me, reminding me of terms previously used, flagging inconsistencies, and freeing up my bandwidth to worry about fluency and other important textual components. As most translators and reviewers I know are paid per productivity, they don’t see the sense of working at something that is not being monetized.
  3. Acknowledge shortcomings, research learn, and ask questions — nobody is expected to know everything. Most reviewers I know tend to gloss over terms they don’t feel comfortable with rather than truly digging into them and asking questions when necessary. In my opinion no one is expected to know everything and it is acceptable to ask for instance if a company terms its Senior Managers as Executive Board or as Management for instance, but not asking means that we are 100% confident on the chosen term or concept. Instead reviewers tend to focus on the areas they feel more comfortable with such as grammar. So a process that should produce a significant amount of questions and communication in my opinion is done for the most part solipsistically — that is without any awareness that the reader is just as important as the author.
  4. Be critical and contextual — it is not enough for something to sound right. Is that how the company expresses itself in previously published materials such as websites, documentation or collateral? And even if it is so, if it sounds strange it still should be challenged. So the reviewer is someone who should defy the translation at all stages, but defy it in terms of what really matters-context and purpose. Grammar and spelling are a given but what differentiates an average from a great reviewer is one’s ability to emulate the receiving reader.
  5. Own it — when a sentence is reviewed, that means the reviewer now owns it. I acknowledge that the text is now mine and that I am comfortable with my choices and decisions. This may seem obvious but accountability tends to get lost in reviewing.

So to sum it up — use the right tools and use them correctly, challenge each and every choice working outside your comfort zone, learn and research every step of the way, ask relevant questions, leave your ego aside, and make what someone else has done yours. Straight-forward in theory, but something I have sparsely seen in practice.