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Even on a linguist’s best day, it’s a challenge to measure the accuracy of a translation, outside of actually launching a survey (or other documents) and waiting to see how respondents react. Until you’ve put it to the test, the outcome can’t be predicted. Translation service experts agree that even a minor mistranslation can put an entire project at risk. However, there are some key steps you can take to ensure that your translation hits the mark.

Target Audience

Knowing the target audience for your translation is, obviously, the most significant aspect of any attempt to convert a document or other materials. But, it’s not just pinpointing the right language or culture; it’s determining which part of the target audience you’re truly trying to appeal to. For instance, are you delivering a survey that is tailored for consumers (B2C) or is it business-to-business (B2B) project? Is there a specific subsection of the audience that you’re after? Maybe those in a specific profession or an audience with high/low levels of education? It is imperative to know the group that you’re communicating with in order to develop the most natural translation. Without this information, you’re apt to miss subtle nuances that will help your translation resonate more effectively.

Research Methodology

Identification of how the research is being conducted is essential for your translation. Common methods include:
  • Mall intercepts
  • Mail
  • Focus groups
  • In-depth interviews
  • Telephone surveys
  • Online/web surveys
  • Bulletin Boards
Each of these methodologies involves different ways to communicate. Once you’ve determined which best applies to your project, you can seek a much more accurate translation that is pertinent to your needs.

Attention to Localization

To be accurate, your project should rarely include a word-for-word translation. Your translation must be culturally relevant and localized for the most accuracy. Localization efforts include translating for:
  • Abbreviations and acronyms
  • Titles and proper nouns
  • Alphabetization
  • Numeric/time/date formats
  • Currency/measurement conversions
  • Brand names
  • Pop culture/media
  • Healthcare
  • Religion
  • Appropriate value shifts
Your translation will be clearly inaccurate if you refer to a pop culture icon nobody in the target audience knows, reference a measurement that is unfamiliar to the audience, or utilize abbreviations that they don’t recognize. Localizing your translation and finessing it to include comfortable language is essential.


Even if you’re an expert translator, you’re going to miss something if you don’t do your research. Review pertinent glossaries, mission statements, style guides, legacy translations and other brand/product/service research. Familiarize yourself with the tone/voice of the product/brand. Your efforts should replicate the marketing standards already established by a brand, but also convert it to appeal to those in another culture. Your research is the key to ensuring the translation is accurate and will evoke the desired effects from the target audience. While there is no tried and true equation for measuring translation accuracy, these steps will help ensure you’re on the right path!