Top tips for checking your translations

Always read through your work, I was told at school. Of course, being the obedient student I was, I always did so…until somewhere around the second sentence…

But that was a long time ago, and now, as a professional Italian to English translator I appreciate how important it is to check your translations before sending them off. What’s even more important is having some kind of plan or checklist to follow so you focus on one element at a time. If you try and check everything at once, things are more likely to slip through the net, however much you try and keep an eagle eye!

So, I’ve put together this checklist and would like to share it with you. These are my best tips for checking your own translations and making sure you always submit the best quality you can. 

Wait! Do I really need to check my translations? Do I really need to check my translations? Click To Tweet
Yes! It is so so SO important to check your translations. Yes, even if you know that someone else is going to check it further down the line. I believe in always submitting the best translation possible. So, no excuses about tight deadlines, difficult texts, complicated file formats, you should always strive to produce the best quality you can!

My translation checklist

After doing all my research, I usually do a first draft of the translation, then give it a read-through alongside the source text. Then, keeping the source text close by to start with, I go through the following points.

  1. Is it complete?

You need to make sure you have all the facts in there and that everything is accounted for in one way or another in the translation. CAT tools are great for making sure that you haven’t missed out any sentences, but they don’t check every detail, which is why it’s useful to read through a bilingual version of your text, only checking that all the details and the necessary information is accounted for in your translation. Great, now for the next step…

  1. Facts and numbers

Double check any dates, numbers, facts, names etc. Have all the numbers been transferred correctly? (Again, a CAT tool can be a great help for checking numbers) Do you need to translate any place names? Even people’s names (popes, kings, queens etc). If you spot any factual mistakes, flag them up to the client.

  1. If in doubt, ask!

There’s no such thing as a stupid question… Well, actually there is. So, before you ask any questions, do your research. If you have a trusted native speaker you can ask, ask them. Ask colleagues for advice. And if all that fails, ask the client. I’m lucky enough to be married to a native speaker Italian and he is my first go-to person for any questions. Sometimes all I need is confirmation that a sentence doesn’t make sense, and then I can go back to the client and ask for clarification, without worrying about looking a bit silly.

  1. Is there a Style Guide?

If the client has sent a style guide for you to use…use it! If not, it’s a good idea to use your own. Something like the Oxford Style Guide is a good place to start. There are so many flexible rules in English (-ise or -ize endings in British English), but consistency is key.

  1. Grammar and punctuation

Check it all and check for consistency. Is there a consistent use of single or double quotation marks for example? Is there a consistent use of grammar and tenses? In Italian it is more common to use the present tense for bibliographical details, whereas in English you would probably be better off using the past tense here. Don’t feel tied to the punctuation in the source text. Find what works best in the translation.
There are quite a few different proofreading tools and software out there you can use to help you out here. If you do decide to invest, it’s not a bad idea to keep checking your work yourself until you know how reliable the tool is.

I believe in always submitting the best translation possible. Click To Tweet
  1. Look at the text with “fresh” eyes

Put the source text away and now focus on the translation. Maybe you print it out and take it to a different room. If you can leave the text overnight to brew, that’s always great. Or you can read it in a different font, on a different colour. Read it out loud. Find what’s best for you so you can see how well the text reads without the support of the source text.

  1. Does it really make sense?

I mean, really? Follow your instinct. Maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but if something doesn’t sound quite right….it probably isn’t. Maybe the collocation isn’t quite right, maybe the order of adjectives needs changing so it sounds more fluent in English. Try some synonyms, try changing the syntax, experiment a bit until you get something that sounds good.

  1. Go back to the source text

If you find yourself making quite a few big changes, always double check with the source text, maybe you’ve misunderstood something or maybe you’ve lost some vital details when tweaking your translation.

  1. Check layout and presentation.

Again, CAT tools are great in helping with this, but it’s always useful to double check that everything has survived the CAT tool process.

  1. Ready to go?

Not yet you don’t! Run a quick spellcheck/grammar check – what have you got to lose?

  1. Ready to submit now?

Hold your horses! Put the kettle on and read it through again.

Just. One. Last. Time.

I hope these tips help you in your quest to provide excellent quality translations. They are based on my experience translating Italian to English, but I hope they help you whatever your language pair.
Have I missed anything? Do you have any other tips for checking your translations?