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Feedback management - a key to long-term partnership

May 9, 2017

(This post is written by Andrea Téry, our Vendor Manager)

Feedback in the translation industry can be defined in various ways, but if we want to summarise it in one sentence we could say that feedback relates to comments and suggestions about the quality of the translation and the relationship, designed to help someone improve. It is very important to highlight at the outset that feedback (even it is negative) is not the same thing as quality management and simple criticism or judgement without any constructive comments should not be seen as feedback.


It is also very important to make a distinction between constructive and non-constructive feedback. Experience has shown that positive feedback is not necessarily constructive.

A "sound–bite" evaluation, such as "Great job! Thank you!" is positive, but it can hardly be called constructive.

Is there anything that the translator can learn from this message? On the other hand, negative feedback can be very helpful if it does not only list the errors spotted during the review, but also explains why they are incorrect and how to avoid them in the future.

Sometimes people worry that providing detailed feedback to the translator will lead to conflict.

However, when it is given well, feedback should never alienate co-workers, but it should motivate them to perform better.

We can learn how to provide constructive feedback and avoid demotivating or upsetting people. One of the most difficult tasks is to turn criticism into a positive and inspiring message. Here are a few tips and hints to think about when you provide feedback:

- Maintain the balance of positive and negative feedback
- Provide constructive positive feedback as well; highlight the parts of the translation that match your expectations
- Be objective and never add any personal comments to the assessment
- Focus on the consequences of any mistakes for potential readers
- Apologise if any faults might be due to inadequate instructions
- Prioritize your comments and limit your remarks to the most important issues
- Send back the final version of the translation, if possible using track changes
- Always be open to discuss your feedback

The role of the agency in this process is very complex.

Apart from setting up the best possible workflow and ensuring the technical background for each project, the agency is responsible for transferring information between the client and the linguists from the beginning of the task to the end of the process. We cannot overstate that this should be a two-way and dynamic communication channel, through which queries can be submitted to the client and then detailed feedback can be given to the translators.

The lack of feedback deprives the translator of the opportunity to improve his/her work.

What can the editor and the client do to help the translators' work?

We encourage our clients to send back the final version of the documents and let us know if any changes have been made in the text, so we can learn from the amendments and implement corrective actions in the workflow.

Our editors are asked to communicate all questions to the translator before signing off the documents. A very effective way is when the translator and the editor work together, so if the editor has any questions about the translation they can directly talk about them before preparing the final version.

We also ask our editors to fill out an assessment form and evaluate the translation on the basis of the following criteria: style, grammar, spelling, misunderstanding and terminology and collect some useful examples for the translator, so they can pay extra attention to avoid these issues in the future.

It's easy to believe that such back and forth correspondence is too time-consuming and requires too much effort, but let us not forget that learning together and the exchange of views will result in better quality, and so less work to make the translated material completely fit for purpose. As a quality-conscious agency, Language Experts Group is committed to provide more and more feedback to our co-workers each year. This is a long-term project, but it is worth the investment.