What exactly is a “good” translation?



It might be difficult for an inexperienced client to tell if the requested document translation is of good quality, or not. It is even more difficult to judge the translator’s performance if you don’t know the language you are translating from or into. Gauging what is “good” translation is, to a certain extent, subjective since texts can be generally understood in a variety of different ways.

Even after considering the writer’s intention, target audience, and the stylistic feel of a text, there is subjective leeway in how certain things can be translated without one being objectively “better” than the other.

However, there are certain criteria that translators strive to meet in order to ensure quality translations. As a paying client, these are some of the things you should look for after you receive your final translated text back from an individual translator or an agency.


These criteria will be impossible to gauge if you are not familiar with both languages but can be adapted by bilinguals looking to spot check the linguist. Be mindful, some linguistic nuances are difficult to translate and will not be literal, ON PURPOSE!

If you don’t speak both languages, here are some basic steps you can take to double check your translator:

  • Verify if any and all numbers are correct
  • Check the spelling of the names that are usually left untranslated
  • Unless there is an equivalent
  • Perform a visual check



If you are familiar with the language the text was translated into, you should read it! It should feel like you are reading an original text. If it seems unnatural and awkward, with unusual word choices and lack of flow, then the translator did not do a good job.


Zrzut ekranu z 2017-03-31 10-54-22

Ideally, your translated document should mirror the look of the original. However, it depends on your budget and what you are willing to pay for. The standard translation will not have the images, signatures, and other visual components embedded into the translated document but will contain a description of them. For example, instead of the original stamp’s image, it will note “An oval stamp of the Head of the Department of Education, John Smith,” or something similar.

Zrzut ekranu z 2017-03-31 11-07-12

Zrzut ekranu z 2017-03-31 11-05-59

If you are willing to purchase a DTP (Desktop Publishing) service, along with your translation, then in the creation of your translated documents the linguist or a DTP expert will generate layouts and produce typographic quality text and images comparable to your original text, meaning the source and the target documents will be a mirror image of one another. So, in our stamp example, your translated document will contain an image of the stamp from the original document along with the translated text.

Zrzut ekranu z 2017-03-31 09-56-33

The bottom line is, the best way to ensure a quality translation is obtaining an experienced and trained translator and proofreader with expertise in the specific subject matter of the original text. Any professional translator will proofread their own work; however, having a second set of eyes is imperative.

For medium to large projects, securing a trusted agency who will manage these projects is essential. An experienced agency will ensure quality of product while coordinating various linguists throughout all the stages of the translation and proofreading process, and, most importantly, will guide through this complex process.

About us

LEGAL INTERPRETERS LLC is an interpreting agency founded by an actual interpreter with a broad and extensive interpreting experience. Agata Baczyk has been working as an independent interpreter for several years and decided to start her own interpreting agency in order to address the industry's need for professional and experienced interpreters. Most interpreting agencies are not able to screen or assess their interpreters effectively because they don't have the needed tools and knowledge of what that job entails. As a company led by a professional interpreter we are able to ensure that the linguists we contract with are knowledgeable and experienced.


Latest comments