11 October 2021

The stages of the translation process

Categoria: Linguistic Services

Those who request a translation service often do not realize how much work goes on behind the scenes, which is why we have decided to outline the stages of the translation process.

When people think of translation, they imagine a translator busy transposing a text from one language to another, when in fact it is a far more complex and structured work cycle involving various stages that precede and follow this step.

While the actual act of translation is a very delicate and crucial stage to ensure a high-quality service, the preliminary feasibility analysis phase and the downstream quality control procedure are equally essential.

These two phases complement and complete the translation process, ensuring a high-quality end product, as set forth in ISO 17100:2015, which governs the provision of translation services by agencies such as ours.

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Preliminary feasibility analysis and translation

In a structured organization like an agency (or LSP, Language Service Provider), translation is always preceded by a preliminary feasibility analysis phase, otherwise known as “contract review”, to use ISO terminology.

This step is a crucial moment in the entire translation process because the more information and clarification the customer provides about the job at this stage, the easier it will be to meet the customer’s needs while avoiding the risk of misunderstandings or errors.

At Way2Global, for example, this stage is entirely managed by our Key Account Managers.

They are responsible for gathering all the information required to assess, in collaboration with the project managers, which of our services best suits the customer’s needs.

Specifically, the basic information to acquire at this preliminary stage is:

  • language combination;
  • type of document;
  • time frame;
  • purpose of the document.

The last point is particularly relevant because it determines whether additional services are added to the standard translation and, consequently, the final cost of the service.

For example, if the customer requires translation of a legal document for foreign countries, they must first clarify which institution and country it is intended for, so the most appropriate service can be chosen: sworn translation, legalization or apostilization. Indeed, translation alone is not sufficient to make a document legally valid abroad.

The Key Account Manager’s skill lies in knowing how to ask the right questions to gather the information for providing a translation service that meets the customer’s needs.

Once all the necessary information has been collected and the services being offered have been defined, the project is assigned to one of the project managers on our team, usually the one responsible for the client or otherwise best suited to the specific task in question, which then becomes a job order.

As part of their job management duties, the project manager is responsible for selecting the most suitable personnel to complete each assignment, which begins the second phase, the actual translation.

The translation is usually done by the translator working within their translation ecosystem using all the sector’s digital technologies: CAT (Computer-Assisted Translation) systems, terminology databases, style guides, reference material relevant to the text being translated, and machine translation engines, if necessary, depending on the work cycle agreed upon with the customer.

Digital translation technologies are a very important part of the translation process. Now more than ever, they are literally revolutionizing the language industry. Like all sectors, our industry has experienced a major drive toward digitalization as a consequence of the pandemic, to such an extent that it is estimated that by the end of 2021, more than 91% of the global demand for translations will be covered by translations using digital systems.

As important as technologies are, the translator remains at the heart of the translation process, a linguist who, according to ISO 17100:2015, must meet stringent requirements.

To be considered a professional translator, they must be a native speaker of the target language into which they translate, and they must have proven expertise and years of experience in the translation world, as well as specific knowledge and/or experience in their field of specialization (financial, medical/scientific, technical, etc.).

Since every language is constantly evolving, the translator should ideally also be settled in their native country so that they are always aligned with the locally spoken language and its variants and/or neologisms.

Once the actual translation is complete, the text is ready for the last stage.

Revision, proofreading and quality control

The last stage of the translation process consists of a series of checks performed to ensure that the document is correct in language and content.

Revision is the first check implemented after the translation stage.

A second specialized native-speaker translator checks the work done by their colleague and, in addition to correcting any errors, may make changes where deemed necessary in order to make the text more fluid and easily understood by the final recipient.

In addition to linguistic and terminological correctness, revisers must seek to overcome another invisible barrier: the cultural barrier. This means, among other things, that all intertextual references must be “localized” in the translation, i.e., traced back to the native culture of the document’s recipient. Consider the adaptation of the Coca-Cola brand for the Chinese market where a literal translation had nothing to do with the product being sold and the feelings associated with it, so the Chinese term had to be altered, resulting in “Kokoukole”, which instead evokes the feeling of happiness and joy generally associated with this brand.

After the revision process, the document’s layout is finalized and it is finally passed on to the proofreaders.

Proofreading is the final stage of the translation process. This is a formal check of the translation, focusing on typos, spacing, completeness, and other aspects unrelated to content, which has already been finalized in the revision phase.

At the end of the proofreading stage, the document is returned to the project manager, who coordinates the different stages and is responsible for a final check (QA, Quality Assurance) so that a high-quality translation can be sent to the customer within the timeframe agreed at the start of the process.

These are the steps in the translation process that we usually follow. There are also special cases in which the revision and quality control stages are even more numerous due to particularly sensitive documents, as well as other jobs in which the customer requests that the work cycle be streamlined in order to meet tight deadlines or other requirements.

In any case, it is not possible to obtain a professional translation without first defining all the necessary services with the customer or without checking and reviewing the translated text.

At Way2Global, we provide our translation services while respecting all phases of the translation process and ensuring the highest quality by assigning each of the stages described here to experienced professionals.

Professionalism and organization are the characteristics that enable our translation agency to effectively respond to customers’ requests.

Need a translation service? Contact us!


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    Laura Gori is the Founder and CEO of Way2Global, a women-led translation agency startup with a Benefit ethos. After 30 years at the helm of a small multinational localization company, Laura decided to make a fresh start and founded Way2Global to conduct business in a way that benefits society and the environment, while promoting corporate growth. A fervent advocate of Benefit Corporations and women’s empowerment, Laura takes every opportunity to spread awareness on these issues and contribute to a fairer, more egalitarian and sustainable economy for all.
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