The rationale behind in-country reviews is for companies to have their own local experts review a professional document translation to verify its accuracy and quality. Not only does the in-country reviewer have a solid grasp of both languages, but the reviewer can offer insights into how to best present the material for the local market while ensuring that the company’s voice and brand are accurately represented.

On paper, it seems like a great idea. But too often, the in-country review process doesn’t add the value it should to a document translation. Even worse, a poorly managed in-country review can create major bottlenecks that can disrupt a translation project or create confusion and costly delays.

If you’re considering an in-country review for document translation, here are a few critical questions to ask first, along with some best practice tips, should you decide to proceed along those lines:

1. Who is reviewing the translation and what are their qualifications?

Companies often assign anyone who meets basic qualifications—a native speaker of the target language who has a good understanding of the source language—as an in-country reviewer. However, simply being able to speak both languages doesn’t necessarily mean they have the skills to review and edit a document translation. For example, would you ask anyone who speaks English in the office, warehouse, or dealership to write a product brochure? Absolutely not—you’d ask your copywriter or hire a professional writer to do it for you.

Translation is a profession and those who translate have significant experience and education background in the task. Just because someone speaks both languages doesn’t mean they have the expertise to offer valuable feedback. In fact, without the right qualifications, they may end up offering feedback that degrades the translation and alters the message and the overall quality.

Best Practice Tip:

If you proceed with an in-country review, make sure you’ve identified a reviewer who not only has a command of both languages, but also has the subject matter expertise, written language skills and editorial capabilities to conduct the review in a way that adds value to the translation.

2. What are the parameters for the review process?

Companies often throw the translated document on a reviewer’s desk and ask them to “take a look.” Without clear guidelines as to what type of feedback you are looking for or how the review process should work, in-country reviewers are left with a dangerous amount of leeway.

For instance, you may want the reviewer to simply check that the technical terms are used accurately, but without clear guidance the reviewer may take it upon him or herself to redline half the document because they prefer a different writing style. Ironically, they may not even check the technical terms because they are focused on the wrong thing. These types of edits are not only unnecessary, but they can add costs and delays to the project as the translation company works to incorporate the reviewer’s stylistic preferences into the translation.

It’s also important to specify that the review should include not just reading through the translated document, but comparing it against the source document. This process ensures that the reviewer is checking for accuracy, tone and completeness, and not just reading with his or her own idea of what sounds good in mind.

Best Practice Tip:

Provide clear direction on what should be reviewed, the type of feedback you want, and make sure they are reviewing the content based on the source document.

3. What are the timelines?

Without a firm deadline an in-country review can end up creating major bottlenecks. The employees that are being asked to do the review have fulltime jobs with many other tasks on their to-do list. When timelines aren’t made clear, reviewing the translation can quickly drop to the bottom of their task list. This can significantly delay a translation from being completed. Or, as sometimes happens, cause a finalized translation to be “called back” and revised many months later, when the reviewer points out their issues with the translation.

Best Practice Tip:

Give your in-country reviewer a clear timeline for reviewing the document and find a way to make them stick to the deadline.

4. How can you help make the process smoother for the translation company?

In-country reviews can be a challenge for your translation services, especially when there is inconsistency in the feedback or unclear direction provided from the in-country reviewer. For example, if the in-country reviewer suggests changing a term to a different word in one part of the document, but doesn’t do so in another part, or the reviewer provides comments like, “the language is too stale here.” In these cases, the translation company may be confused about how to best address the feedback while maintaining a high level of consistency (a key priority for a quality translation).

To make the process smoother for everyone, it’s best for the translation company to know at the start of the project that there will be an in-country review and who the reviewer will be. The reviewer can create a glossary of key terminology before translation even begins and there can be discussion as to how the reviewer can best provide feedback. This will not only help speed the review process for the in-country reviewer, it will help the translation service get it right from the beginning.

Another critical factor is to use the same in-country reviewer each time to create consistency in the process. As in any project, the process will go smoother if the translation company and the reviewer can develop a relationship. With a consistent reviewer, over time the translation company will learn that reviewer’s preferences and be able to translate accordingly. At the same time, the reviewer can get more adept at providing high-value feedback.

Best Tip Practice:

Keep your in-country reviewers consistent and let the translation company know in advance that an in-country review will be part of the process.

5. Do you really need an in-country review?

Think carefully about whether you really require an in-country review. It will almost inevitably add time to the project. If the answer is yes, then make sure you take the appropriate steps in advance to identify an in-country reviewer and establish clear expectations and guidelines.

Best Practice Tip:

Make sure to plan the in-country review process in advance and follow best practices to ensure it is adding value, not just complexity, to the translation process.

In-country reviews can be a positive step in the translation process, but only when managed appropriately. And, too often they’re not. If you decide an in-country review is right for you, make sure you manage it properly and keep assessing whether it adds value.