10 potential stumbling blocks in translation


High-quality translations despite stumbling blocks

exact! deploys a comprehensive quality management system that all employees adhere to. For this reason, everything generally runs smoothly – both in our project management and translation teams. Nevertheless, stumbling blocks can always crop up along the way. How this can happen even though

  • experienced project managers and translators,
  • tried and trusted processes,
  • professional quality management,
  • extensive technical resources,
  • regular internal checks and external audits and
  • trusting collaboration with clients

all create the ideal conditions for success will be explained in this article. Not everything always goes according to plan. This article presents the ten most common stumbling blocks along with possible approaches for dealing with them.

Stumbling block 1: Linguistically poor source texts

Many source texts are written in English by authors who are not native speakers of the language. An unidiomatic writing style and terminological mistakes often make it difficult for the translator to even understand the source text. Mistranslations potentially caused by unclear references or inconsistent terminology can then only be prevented through consultation with the customer. This costs time and is inconvenient for everyone involved.

Solution: Initial editing by native speakers ensures linguistically correct, idiomatic source texts. exact! is happy to provide this service.

Stumbling block 2: Technically challenging texts

When evaluating a translation request, a specialised technical source text appears feasible for the translator. However, it then proves to be more demanding and require more research than expected.

Solution: In this situation, at least one person involved must have advanced knowledge in the relevant area – be it the translator, the reviser or a reviewer.

Stumbling block 3: Technical problems

From time to time, a source file may be damaged or a project package may not be created properly in the translation environment. This prevents the job from being processed.

Solution: It may be possible to repair the file. Alternatively, after consultation with the customer, it may also be possible to obtain a new version of the source file.

Stumbling block 4: Translation into several languages

The source text is only available in German and must now be translated into several languages. Because our trusted translators for some languages do not work in German, an English translation must be completed first. This has the following disadvantages:

  • Imprecise wording in the English translation is duplicated in the other languages.
  • Translation into the other languages can only begin once the English translation is ready, which can lead to scheduling bottlenecks.

Solution: At first glance this approach appears to take up valuable time. However, a thorough revision in accordance with the dual control principle subsequently saves everyone involved time-consuming consultation effort.

Stumbling block 5: Terminological inconsistency

Reference texts and the customer’s website are generally good research sources for the translator. However, such sources may not always use standardised terminology.

Solution: When accepting the job request, the project manager checks with the customer whether glossaries or verified terminology sources can be provided. During the translation process, the translator consults with the customer on important decisions regarding terminology.

Stumbling block 6: Translation or transcreation

The customer would like a translation of a source text that is intended for publication, such as portions of their website. Even a professional translation that reads smoothly and sounds like an original can only reproduce what is in the source text. Content adjustments and extensive rewriting require a comprehensive briefing for the translator.

Solution: The nature of the translation job must be clearly defined in advance. If a transcreation is requested, the translator must be selected very carefully and thoroughly briefed by the customer. exact! offers both translation and transcreation.

Stumbling block 7: Style is a matter of taste

As we all know, there is no accounting for taste. It is not always easy to set aside personal preferences and assess a translation with full objectivity.

Solution: Only upon receiving feedback on translations from customers can translators adapt to their stylistic and terminological preferences. At exact!, translators see constructive feedback as an opportunity for self-improvement.

Stumbling block 8: Company preferences

Customers are intimately familiar with their company and its internal jargon. As a result, they are always ahead of the translator in terms of background knowledge. An external translator must be able to adapt to many different companies and has little insight into their respective preferences.

Solution: When evaluating a translation, customers should take into account that external translators are outsiders who cannot be as familiar with the relevant corporate language as internal employees. Customer feedback helps the translator expand their knowledge of the company in question. Consistent collaboration with the translator proves to be a clear advantage.

Stumbling block 9: PDF file format

If a source text is only available in PDF form, it must first be exported into a Word document, for instance, before it can be translated in a translation memory (TM) system. Such exports come with several downsides:

  • Numbers and proper names may be transferred incorrectly.
  • Portions of text are sometimes missing, e.g. if they are embedded in the PDF as scans.
  • The formatting may significantly deviate from that of the source text, requiring tedious layout adjustments.
  • Generic content such as the table of contents or header and footer is counted in the project analysis, raising the price.

Solution: Customers often also have the source text in the original processing file format, such as a Word document, which they can send for translation. If this is not the case, we must consider whether the text from the PDF file can be sufficiently prepared for translation in the TM system.

Stumbling block 10: Subsequent changes to the source text

Source texts are often written with fast-approaching deadlines. The translation is requested promptly so that it will also be ready on time. Source texts, especially those intended for publication, are often edited by multiple people on the customer-side. This can lead to subsequent editorial changes to the source text which the translator must take into account, even though they have already begun translating due to time constraints.

Solution: When using a TM system, we recommend creating a new project using the edited source file. The translator can then retrieve their own pre-translated sentences from the translation memory without overlooking any changes or added text.


The quality management system at exact! is designed to fulfil both the requirements of our customers and our own high standards. And if any stumbling block should happen to get in the way, our team members do everything in their power to remove it.


Read more on this topic in our blog entry “Active quality management at exact!”.

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