BUYER of TRANSLATION GIGS? Know the ‘best practice’ to get good translations? Cool. Carry on. No? Read this. Especially if the ‘source text’ you give to translators is not the source text


I’m offering translation gigs on Fiverr, so I know and have seen and experienced a thing or two in that regard.
Apart from the unfortunately rather common messages from buyers who bought a translation from a “native speaker” and found out they didn´t (but that´s a topic for another post), I’m seeing the following so often.

I get a file to translate.

The file sometimes is an English Word doc, sometimes an Excel sheet with rows for several languages including the English ‘source text’ I’m supposed to work with (thus, I’m not using the actual languages I translate here, but placeholders, since I have a basic grasp of enough languages to see in those multi-language Excel files that it´s just the same in other languages).

Either way, usually the ‘source text’ given to translators is English, the gig being bought is ‘English to Language B’, ‘English to Language C’ etc.
(Can be applied to other language constellations too, though.)
So far, so good.

Problem: the English text is not the source text.
The source text was written in whatever other language, let´s call it language A.

You wrote a text in A or had it written for you in A.
You had an A native who is really good in English translate the text from A to English, and then had an English native who is really good in A proofread/correct/edit the text, and then you gave that perfect, or at least good enough, English text to all the translators who shall translate it into languages D to Z?
Or the exact other way around (some prefer it like that)?
Or even had those two translators cooperate on the text?
Even had them cooperate with each other and you/whoever wrote the text?

Great, that was what´s called best practice, carry on, you can stop reading here and can rightly expect perfect texts in D-Z from native D-Z translators, if you choose them wisely. (You most possibly belong to the minority of Fiverr translation gig buyers, too.)

But this is real life, so probably this isn´t what happened. Let´s see…

You had an A native who is really good in English translate the text from A to English and then passed it on to good native D-Z translators to translate from English to D-Z?

You might get lucky and a good translation.

You had an A native who is not all that good in English translate the text from A to English and then passed it on to translators to translate from English to D-Z?

You need a lot of luck and might end up with a good or at least passable translation, or you´re SOL.

I get it. It saves money, and often it can be hard to find yet another trustworthy and able and not too expensive translator for the specific language pair/s you are looking to buy translation gigs for. They don´t grow on trees, not even on Fiverr.

BUT. If your English ‘source file’ (which, as we now have established, isn´t really the source file) is bad,
then some good, and too nice for their own good, translators might spend the time on guessing what the gruesome English text is supposed to say (=what may be written in the real source file),
and they might get lucky with their guesses most or some of the time,
but a lot of translators (including but not limited to those who just throw your texts into Google Translate and don´t even check them (neither could many of those even check, or rather correct them, appropriately since they are no native speakers anyway) will simply translate what the English text says because time is money and because it says in their gig description that you are responsible for giving them a correct source text, so they can do their job correctly and without it taking them (and, if they want to do the job correctly, you too, since they´ll have to get back to you with questions) ages.

Sometimes it might not be that important to you personally that everything is not 100 % correct and precise and you might not mind that much, sometimes it is. I can guarantee you that, were you yourself a native level speaker of A and, say O, you´d be lost for words often, when comparing your original nice and perfect A text to the O text.

And if you pass on the English text with all the typos, grammatical errors, semantical mistakes, … , in short, with all the things you can do to a perfectly fine A text, to all other translators, you have the best chances to end up with all those things in D to Z too.

(And this doesn´t even include things like that, while it might be perfectly fine to write ‘fat girls’ in a language A text that wants to sell clothes to fat girls in the places that speak languages D-Z, it will not sell clothes in those places.)

This might not be that kind of important for everyone – budget might be a priority and the level of perfection you need/want for your specific use case might differ; if you sell 1 € products on some online platform starting with an ‘A’ and completely swap out products very often because your market changes fast, you might not want to invest too much into perfect translations that will be up for 4 weeks; if you sell high-end products or have a website you don´t want more educated potential customers to close as soon as they open it, or want to publish a book and might not want to get laughed at by writer buddies and maybe readers, it might be a wee bit more important, aye?

TL; DR: Make sure your English ‘source text’ is of high (enough) quality BEFORE you pass it on to other translators because the bad things will multiply and you´ll have not just a bad English text but bad D-Z texts.

Bonus read (not a must :wink: )

Tip for the budget conscious buyers:
If you really can´t afford to have your real source text translated by a good native A translator and cross-checked by a good native English translator, and want or have to leave that middle step out, it would be a good idea to get someone good for the A to English translation and good English to B-Z translators who’ll get back to you with questions and comments if there are too many problems/ambiguous things with the English texts, making sure those things won´t transfer into the other languages as well and won´t simply ‘translate the mistakes’.
This solution though will cost you (time x languages translated), so maybe not skipping the middle step might still be the better and cheaper way, all in all.

(If your English text actually is the source text but you don´t know English well enough yourself to be sure it´s of native speaker quality and don´t know if you can trust the writer, it´s a good idea to have at least one of the texts (per writer) checked by a native English person who can tell you if it´s okay to use or would need proofreading/editing.)

Next up maybe a ’10 ROFL examples of what can happen to your texts when you pick a translator who just throws them into Google Translator and doesn’t (or can´t, many of those don´t even speak the languages they offer you to translate at all) proofread/correct them’ :wink:but you know you should only buy translation gigs from sellers who actually are at least fluent in the languages they offer if not native speakers, right?

[Disclaimer: This text reflects my experiences on Fiverr and contains my personal take on this. I might talk for a lot of my ‘colleagues’ here, and am pretty sure I do, but do not claim I do and maybe I´m not (and you all are cordially invited to add your own thoughts and/or tips!).
It is a turned into words combination of my hope that it might help some of you and a sigh that probably a lot of my fellow translators here have sighed oftentimes.
I know you don´t do it on purpose, and maybe this post shed some light on the issue to help you understand it better or to be aware of it in the first place or even will help you to go about this in the best possible way for your business, possibilities and purpose and you will profit from spending the time reading. Thank you. :blush:]


Haven’t encountered this situation specifically with multiple translations layered on top of one another (at least, that I know of), but can vouch for the fact that a lot of buyers don’t seem to know bad writing looks like.

Unfortunately, this just makes more translation difficult. If you’re faithful to the original, then your version will look super dodgy. If you try to pretty it all up…you might get extra satisfaction out of it, but you also just spent hours on a $5 gig, not only translating but also editing.

Sorry about the mini rant. Translation just gets really frustrating really quickly when buyers don’t understand what they’re doing.

(Buyer was suspicious of me once because the Chinese translation came out shorter than the English version. Cue long-winded explanation from me that Chinese characters=/=English letters.)


Yes, I fear many aren´t aware and some will never be; projecting from people who message because they got (or did :wink: )a subpar translation and only eventually learned it when a friend who happened to know the language in question and read the text, or even a customer of their own, told them, and from some other observations, I don´t want to know how many never learn. :wink:


Yeah, it’s pretty discouraging. I won’t say I’m super amazing or anything, but there’s a surprising amount of “translators” who can barely string words together into sentences. Problem is, a lot of buyers are cheap and will willingly pay for low quality translations without bothering to even have them proofread.

Of course, proofreading isn’t the answer to everything either. I saw someone on BR a while back who wanted someone proficient in Spanish to proofread and edit their google-translated document. No matter how good your editor is, it’s still going to be a bad translation.


If they get someone who can proofread the translation against the original document, it wouldn´t
need to be that bad, but if the proofreader only works with the translated file, obviously s/he can only really proofread for punctuation, grammar and such and make more or less educated guesses on other problems, plus even grave mistakes might stay in the text because they are only obvious when you compare original text and translation.
And, still, the problem remains that it can cost you more time to proofread/correct/edit a bad translation than it would cost you to do it from scratch, or at least not much less. And then, of course, a lot of buyers who buy the often very cheap ‘pure Google translations’ (vs. corrected/edited Google translations by someone who knows the ‘source language’ or source language and target language well) from someone who only spends seconds on the gig (download file, throw into Google Translator, deliver) will flinch at what ‘only proofreading’ can cost, if they hire someone who will spend the time to do it right… or at what a good translation can cost…

And yes, some just don´t care, main thing is it´s cheap, but luckily a lot of people are aware of the magic of words and the difference a bad/good translation can make, and what it might mean for their business/whatever purpose, and some will understand if you explain it, though that goes for most if not all categories, of course. :slight_smile:


Personally I don’t think all this thing is even worth the time. I only deliver professional translations, I translated short books, scientific papers, governative documents and so on.
Literal translation is B’s and is not professional, and high quality interpretative translation required skills, experience and dedication.
Here those people want a translation for some ridiculous price and on top of that you gotta give 20% to the website.
In my opinion is better they go with Google translation! LOL