Specialist translation

Specialist translation

As you’re aware, a translator isn’t just someone who’s learned various languages and/or who knows how to look words up in a dictionary.

That’s why you call on the services of professional translation providers. And I should emphasise the importance of going with a specialist.

During the course of my career, clients have asked me to proofread translations carried out either automatically or by translators who aren’t familiar with the field in question. This sometimes leads to results that are funny but, more importantly, inappropriate.

Every business relationship is based on the key value of trust.

To be specific, the trust your clients have in your professionalism. This is arguably the case to an even greater degree in the medical devices sector. The choice of supplier, service provider or laboratory is down to a variety of factors, including perceived and recognised professional quality.

Automatic translation has become extremely effective, and the days when engines translated Microsoft Windows literally as Microsoft Fenêtres are long gone.

However, when it comes to translating the caption for a diagram of a femur, a translation engine doesn’t know that the word shaft refers to a diaphysis and not a camshaft.

Similarly, a human translator who doesn’t work in the medical field may not be aware that revision surgery is not a re-examination.

Just for fun, in the course of my proofreading assignments, I’ve put together[*] some of the funniest mistakes made by non-specialist (machine or human) translators in documents where I’m an expert in the subject matter.

I hope these examples will make you smile and, especially, think carefully about how important it is to go with a translator who knows what you’re talking about.

A specialist in your products and your business area, who knows that the kind of cups you use aren’t teacups and that the delivery times you are referring to are pregnancy due dates.

[*] Special thanks go to my father, Yanick Dinh, for his illustrations.

Proofreading by a third party

If you’re not in the habit of working with a professional translator, you may be surprised to hear your service provider mention proofreading by a specialized third party; it may even make you wary or suspicious.

« What? This person who claims to be professional and an expert in my field, who quotes me a price in relation to that, now seems to have such little confidence in his work that he’s having it checked and corrected by someone else? »

Far from alarming you, this approach should, on the contrary reassure you, as it is the proof that your service provider is both conscientious and professional.

A document intended for publication should be flawless

Perhaps you have already found a typo in a published text, and yet you were sure that you had thoroughly checked it. It’s frustrating, but it’s a relatively common occurence. To find it, a fresh look is required, that of a proofreader-corrector.

In every press office in the world you’ll find a team of proofreaders and correctors who track down the smallest typo, spelling mistake or repetition, proposing a different turn of phrase here, adding a comma there…

In the case of translations, the proofreader does this work; verifying and controlling the form and the content of what is said, and also ensuring that it is compliant with the original message.

The proofreader provides the indispensable fresh look and if he or she must be specialized, it is not in fact to compensate for any of the translator’s shortcomings, but to be able to apply the same level of rigor as the translator to all of these aspects.

Translator and proofreader: a team to guarantee the quality of your final documents

As I am sure you have understood, the proofreader’s expertise enables him or her to provide a service that effectively complements the translator’s work. You and your organization reap the benefits from the additional quality provided by such teamwork. Keep this in mind when you are studying a translation quote: proofreading is not a superfluous service.

Official references

The European quality standard for Translation Services Providers EN-15038:2006 stipulates:

…quality is guaranteed (…) by the fact of the translation being reviewed by a person other than the translator…


Having said this, proofreading by a third party is not always necessary, and in certain cases you can do without it. For example, if the document to be translated is for information purposes only within your company, or if a staff member has the skills and the necessary time available to check the document.

For this and all other questions that may arise, it’s best to have an open discussion directly with your service provider, and then define together the exact scope of the service that best meets your needs.