The translation process /


Source text in front of you and a blank target text field on the screen, you’re ready to translate! Where do you begin?

Filling the blank space may seem daunting at first, which is why we recommend following a process to ensure every translation is exceptional. All translators develop their own unique style with years of practice. However, several crucial steps are a part of any translation process. Following these steps ensures your translation accurately reflects the source text while sounding natural in the target language.

  • In this resource, we’ll teach you the steps no translation process should go without. Master them, mold them and create an approach uniquely your own.

These are the key 3 steps:

  1. Understand
  2. Translate
  3. Proofread and review

Understand: customer needs

Understanding your customer’s needs is the first step to a great translation.

Begin by reading and understanding all customer instructions. What kind of translation do they need? What is the appropriate style or tone? Are there any special requirements? Instructions left by the customer can be seen directly in the workbench:

Make sure you also look through any photos, links or documents provided. These provide crucial context about your source text. When translating product descriptions, it is invaluable to see photos of the item itself. When translating a customer’s website, understanding the flow of the content on the website helps create a more accurate translation.

If the customer has provided a glossary of terms, it is important to use these when translating.

If the customer has not provided any instructions, follow the general guidelines laid out in the Gengo Style Guide.

Understand: the source text

Now that you know the customer’s needs, it’s time to understand the text itself. Read it thoroughly, end to end. Start by looking up any unfamiliar terms. We recommend these resources for initial research:

If any terms or customer requirements are unclear, use the comment function in the Gengo Workbench to ask the customer for clarification:

Translate: process and new terms

You’re now ready to start translating your text! Here are the two most common workflows, so choose a style that best suits you:

  1. Translate the entire text, creating a “draft” translation. Also called a literal translation, this text will contain all of the information of the source text, but will be difficult to understand and awkward to read. After this initial step, go back through and edit your “draft” translation to read naturally in the target language.
  2. Move more slowly through the text, translating it into natural-sounding language right from the start. Some translators find this comes more naturally over time after practicing the first approach.
Any new translation is bound to have terminology you’re not familiar with. Here are some of our recommended resources to help you throughout your translation:

Translate: important tips

As you work through the text, keep in mind the various ways in which the source and target languages are different. These may include:

Punctuation: adjust the punctuation you use if punctuation rules differ between the two languages you’re working in. For example, different quotation marks are used in German and English.

Source (German):
Sie sagte: Als Modedesignerin liebe ich es Menschen mit meiner Leidenschaft für Mode zu begeistern

Translation (English):
She said, As a fashion designer I love inspiring people with my passion for fashion.

Sentence structure: there are often significant differences in the way sentences are naturally structured between languages. For example, Spanish sentences can often seem long and unwieldy if translated directly into English. Consider splitting them up for a more natural translation.

Source (Spanish):
Y en cuanto a si se puede comprar la lotería en áreas de pago de tiendas donde se compran otros productos pues también puede resultar práctico, siempre y cuando la persona que esté allí atendiendo, la cajera tal vez impulsara el producto, porque tal vez simplemente con tener el aviso quién sabe si sea suficiente o que motive para poder incentivar a alguien a comprar.

Translation (English):
And as for the possibility of buying a lottery ticket at the checkout area of stores where you buy other products, well, that could work too. As long as the person who works there, the cashier maybe, promoted the product. Who knows if just having the ad there would be enough to motivate someone to buy one?

Idioms and complex terms: some phrases simply can’t be translated literally because they contain complex meaning or rely on the cultural knowledge of readers of the source language. Don’t translate individual words here. Instead, translate the meaning behind these words. If there is no exact term in your target language, give an explanation to the term or phrase.

Proofread and review

Reviewing your text before submission is critical. This ensures that the customer receives a quality translation. Split the review into two steps:

  1. Review the source text and your translation side-by-side
    Ensure that none of the meaning of the source has been omitted from your translation. No extra information should be added, either.

    Check for spelling and grammatical errors. Use the built-in spell checker within Gengo’s workbench. Try online tools like to check for grammar errors.

  2. Review the translation by itself
    Go over just the translation once more to ensure it reads naturally in the target language. Rewrite anything that doesn’t sound right to the ear of a native speaker.
We recommend taking a break between these two steps. Let your eyes rest and forget about the translation for a while. Make a cup of tea. This lets you approach the translation with a fresh pair of eyes and makes it easier to pick up on errors.

Wrap up

Main takeaways

1. Understand
Start with reading provided instructions to understand customer needs and job context.

2. Translate
A translation should accurately reflect the meaning of the source and sound natural in the target language. Keep both points in mind as you translate!

3. Proofread
Don’t skip this critical step. Proofread just your translation without looking at the source as a final step.