The Ultimate Guide to Mastering Your Translation Workflow


Chidinma Egwuogu

02 Oct 2023

12 min. read


I once tried assembling a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle without looking at the picture on the box. Let’s just say it was a disaster.

Translating without a robust translation workflow is similarly unreasonable. You spend more time and resources, achieving notably less impressive outcomes.

Now that you know how not to approach translation, let’s examine a proper translation workflow.

Pro tip: Orchestrate your translation workflow with a professional translation platform – Centus. Learn more.

In this article, we’ll cover:

-What is a translation workflow?

-The importance of a structured translation workflow

-How to set up an effective translation workflow

-Challenges and solutions in managing a translation workflow

What Is a Translation Workflow?

A translation workflow is a systematic, step-by-step process designed to manage and control the stages of translating content from one language to another. It's like a roadmap that ensures each aspect of translation is executed efficiently and accurately.

What is a translation workflow?

A typical translation workflow consists of the following steps:

  • Content analysis: Before any translation begins, it's essential to understand the content's nature. This initial stage assesses the content to determine the resources and expertise needed.

  • Translation: This is the core phase where the source content is translated into the target language. Specialized translators or a translation company may be required, depending on the subject matter.

  • Proofreading: After translation, the content undergoes a review to identify and correct any mistakes, inaccuracies, or inconsistencies.

  • Quality assurance (QA): QA assesses the overall quality of the translated document. This includes cultural appropriateness, contextual accuracy, and alignment of multimedia elements.

  • Final review: For critical projects, another round of reviews ensures the translation meets the highest quality standards.

  • Delivery and feedback: The translated content is then delivered or published. This is followed by a feedback loop for continuous improvement.

Getting any step wrong can cause mistakes or delays. That's why using professional tools and following best practices can help a lot in getting translations right.

The Importance of a Structured Translation Workflow

In general, a structured translation workflow makes the entire translation process a lot easier. Here are other ways an organized process helps too:

  • Consistency: With set processes and guidelines, there's less room for variation. This ensures that every translation, whether it's a single document or a series of related materials, conveys the same tone, style, and quality.

  • Efficiency: Well-defined steps reduce overlap and confusion. This means tasks don't get repeated, team members aren't stepping on each other's toes, and projects move forward without unnecessary delays.

  • Clarity: When every team member knows their specific tasks and milestones, it eliminates guesswork. This clarity speeds up the process and reduces potential bottlenecks.

  • Quality: Regular checks and validations within the workflow ensure that every translation meets the highest standards. This is crucial for brand reputation and audience trust.

  • Feedback loop: Constructive criticism and feedback are gold in the translation business. A structured workflow allows for feedback to be systematically collected, analyzed, and applied, so your team is constantly improving.

  • Faster turnaround: Organized processes ensure that projects transition seamlessly from one phase to another. This swift progression is crucial for meeting tight deadlines and crazy product launches.

  • Improved quality: A structured workflow naturally prioritizes quality. This leads to translations that are not only linguistically accurate but also culturally relevant to the target audience.

  • Cost efficiency: Time is money. A streamlined workflow cuts costs by reducing back-and-forths, reworks, and delays.

  • Scalability: As your business grows and demands increase, having a structured workflow allows for easy scalability. It provides a blueprint that can accommodate larger projects or more languages without compromising on quality or efficiency.

  • Risk mitigation: An improvised approach can expose projects to risks such as missed deadlines, inaccurate translations, cultural insensitivities, and even legal problems. A planned workflow acts as a safety net, identifying potential pitfalls and addressing them proactively.

To sum it up, adopting a structured translation workflow isn't just a best practice — it's a strategic move that ensures quality, efficiency, and customer satisfaction at every turn.

How to Set Up an Effective Translation Workflow

how to set up a translation workflow

Every great structure needs a solid foundation. Similarly, an outstanding translation project stems from a well-thought-out workflow. Here’s how to build this foundation:

1. Define your objectives

Understanding why you're translating content is the foundation of an effective workflow. Start by identifying the core purpose of the translation. Your objectives might include:

  • Market expansion: Are you aiming to penetrate a new market?

  • Information dissemination: Maybe you're trying to provide essential information to a global team.

  • Audience engagement: Connecting more personally with a particular demographic?

Once you've identified your objectives, match them to your target audience. If you’re targeting teenagers in France, don’t shun slang. For a formal business document targeting French executives, opt for a more polished and official language.

2. Pick the right team

The success of any project is highly dependent on having the right individuals involved. Essential members of your translation team might include:

  • General translators: Useful for most generic texts.

  • Domain experts: Crucial for specialized content like medical or legal documents.

  • Cultural consultants: To ensure translations are culturally correct and do not offend regional audiences. They also help translations look and sound more native to the target audience.

You’ll also need a multilingual project manager to coordinate your team. The key is ensuring that everyone is in sync and that each person brings a unique value to the table.

3. Use the right tools

The internet offers a plethora of translation tools and solutions designed to simplify tasks and enhance output quality. Ensure the tool you choose supports your file formats.

Translation management systems (TMS) offer built-in translation memories that remember and auto-suggest previously translated phrases. This feature not only speeds up the process but also maintains consistency across large volumes of text.

Additionally, tools with collaborative features can be a game-changer, especially for teams spread across different locations. Real-time collaboration, annotations, and cloud storage can make the workflow seamless and integrated.

Pro tip: To create seamless translation workflows, use translation memories, glossaries, QA checks, machine translation tools, and other advanced features of a professional localization platform – Centus. Learn more.

4. Set clear milestones

Having clear milestones ensures that you're always on track. It also helps you track progress and ensures everyone is on the same page. Decide whether you want to segment your workflow by word count, sections, or chapters.

Let's say you're translating a 300-page book. Instead of seeing it as one mammoth task to do in one go, break it down. Decide to translate 30 pages a week. By the end of 10 weeks, not only would the book be translated into one language, but you'd also have had ample time for revisions. This approach provides natural review points and keeps the momentum going.

5. Establish communication channels

Clear communication is the bedrock of any successful project. Opt for a centralized tool where the team can converse, share updates, and brainstorm solutions. Keeping everyone on the same page ensures that challenges are addressed promptly, and the workflow remains efficient.

6. Iterate and refine

The initial setup of a translation workflow is just the beginning. After each project, take a moment to reflect on what went well and areas of potential improvement. This iterative approach ensures that your process remains dynamic and in tune with evolving requirements.

7. Choose an appropriate translation method

Different projects demand different translation methods. Whether you're translating technical manuals, marketing collateral, or literary works, the method you choose will significantly influence the output's quality. You can opt for:

  • Human translation: The traditional method where a human translator translates the content. It's perfect for intricate pieces where nuance and emotion are vital, like literary works or high-profile business documents.

  • Machine translation with human post-editing (MTPE): In this method, AI tools give you an initial translation draft. However, after the machine does its part, expert linguists step in. They refine the content and ensure it's up to par.

This MTPE blend often works well for bulk content tasks where speed is of the essence but quality can't be compromised.

Fun fact: 12% of translators do not use computer-assisted translation tools. And among those 12%, Law and Patent translators hold the highest number. Guess you can’t be too careful with legal documents.

8. Create your translation assets

When you're gearing up for consistent translation projects, it's smart to have a solid foundation in place. Translation assets provide that foundation, ensuring you have the necessary resources to kick off any project with efficiency and accuracy. Some of these assets include:

  • Glossaries: These as special, custom dictionaries. They contain terms that are specific to your industry or business. For instance, a tech company might use terms that have a different connotation within their sector. A glossary keeps everyone aligned and minimizes confusion.

  • Translation memory: Imagine working on a document and feeling like you've seen a particular section before. It happens often in translation. Instead of redoing work, a translation memory — a repository of previous translations — can be accessed. It not only saves time but also maintains uniformity across different projects.

  • Style guides: These are the rulebooks for your translation tasks. They capture the spirit of your brand's communication. Does your brand communicate with a touch of formality? Or does it lean towards a casual vibe? A style guide provides clear directives for these nuances, ensuring every translation aligns with your brand's voice.

Ultimately, your translation workflow depends on multiple factors: your niche, the content, your intent, your organization, and your experience, among others. Keep it dynamic and be open to tweaks and changes as you gather more experience.

Challenges and Solutions in Managing a Translation Workflow

Managing translations isn't just a straightforward process of converting text from one language to another. Behind the scenes, there are countless challenges that professionals grapple with.

1. Time constraints

Every project, more often than not, comes with a deadline. Managing multiple translations simultaneously can be overwhelming, leading to rushed jobs and potential errors.

Solution: Prioritize and schedule. Use tools that help in organizing tasks, setting milestones, and tracking progress. Break down the project into manageable chunks and allocate adequate time for each. And remember, sometimes it's okay to push back if the quality is at stake.

2. Managing different projects

When dealing with an international audience, you might need translations in multiple languages. Each language has its nuances, cultural contexts, and grammatical intricacies.

Solution: Leverage technology. A robust translation management system can manage and coordinate translations in multiple languages, at the same time.

3. Balancing speed and quality

The demand for rapid translations is real, especially in dynamic sectors like news, finance, or e-commerce. But faster translations often mean sacrificing quality. How do you guarantee that the translated material reflects the quality of the source material, especially when you're not a native speaker of the target language?

Solution: Start with an automated machine translation, and then have human translators refine the output. It gives you the speed of machines and the accuracy of humans. Follow this with a rigorous three-tier QA process comprised of translators, the TMS’ quality assurance features, and native speakers.

4. Costs

Document translation can get expensive, especially for large, multilingual projects.

Solution: Use machine translation combined with human post-editing. This combo provides a balance between speed, quality, and costs.

5. Continuous updates

It’s hard to keep up with constant changes. Source content isn’t always static. It might undergo updates, leading to discrepancies between the original and its translations.

Solution: Maintain a dynamic link between the source and its translations using technology. This way, any change in the source content triggers an alert for necessary updates in the translations.

6. Scalability

As businesses grow, so do their translation needs. Handling a couple of documents is simple, but when you're dealing with hundreds or even thousands of documents across various languages, the process becomes exponentially challenging.

Solution: Automation and modular processes. Create workflows that can easily accommodate increasing volumes of content. Using translation management systems designed for scale can help streamline tasks, making it easier to manage larger projects.

With the right strategies and tools in place, managing the challenges of translation becomes not just doable but also efficient.

Speaking of tools...

How Centus Can Help

Centus’ dashboard

Navigating the intricacies of the translation world requires the right tools. It's no surprise that 88% of professional translators use at least one computer-assisted translation (CAT) tool, with 76% using more than one. These numbers show how vital technology is for ensuring top-notch translation quality and efficiency.

Recall the challenges we discussed earlier? Many of their solutions hinged on the use of a professional TMS. And that's where Centus steps in with:

  • Streamlined operations: Centus offers a one-stop platform for all your translation needs. Assigning tasks, monitoring progress, and wrapping up projects becomes a breeze.

  • Quality checks: Centus allows running tight quality checks for every translation project.

  • Translation memory and glossary features: With Centus, tracking repeated terms is easier. Use its translation memory to store translated sections for future use. And with Centus glossary, you can ensure the right terms are used consistently.

  • Seamless integrations: Compatibility is crucial. That's why Centus can smoothly integrate with your tool stack.

  • Team collaboration: Centus champions teamwork. Multiple collaborators can join in real-time, making sure everyone's aligned, especially during large projects.

With Centus on your team, you've got a tool that makes things easier and ensures top-notch quality every step of the way. Learn more.

To Sum Up

Managing translations effectively hinges on having a structured workflow. And Centus supports this mission with features that emphasize quality, consistency, and efficiency. It isn't just another tool in the shed. It's a comprehensive solution that’s dedicated to making translation less of a pain.

Considering a leap to better translation management? Experience the Centus difference for yourself. Reach out for a free product consultation now!


What is a translation workflow?

A translation workflow is a step-by-step process used to convert content from one language to another while ensuring accuracy and consistency.

What are the 7 steps of translation?

The seven key steps of translation are:

  • Define your objectives

  • Pick the right team

  • Use appropriate tools

  • Set clear milestones

  • Establish communication channels

  • Iterate and refine

  • Choose an appropriate translation method

What are the 4 types of translation?

The four main categories of translation are:

  • Technical translation: For manuals, specifications, and technical documents.

  • Literary translation: Covers literature like novels, poems, and plays.

  • Commercial translation: For business-related documents such as reports and contracts.

  • Legal translation: Deals with legal documents like court papers and contracts.

How many steps are there in translation?

There are typically 7 key steps in a translation workflow:

1.Define objectives

2.Select the right team

3.Use appropriate tools

4.Set milestones

5.Establish communication channels

6.Iterate and refine

7.Choose the correct translation method

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