Fixing in-house review: Bob the Builder to the rescue

Bob and translation review

For me watching Bob the Builder is sometimes like watching an impeding train wreck. And yet, it highlights the way in which human (or machine) factor can derail even the most wonderfully executed project.

As any translator will happily tell you, it’s all about the context and very often there is not one right answer, but several. Which means that human factor in translation is just as important as on a construction site. This is especially true at the review stage.

Translation review, especially for marketing texts to be used in-country, is a very important step. This is when the client makes sure that the translation is fit for the purpose and right for the brand.

However, very often client review is conducted by in-house specialists who do not have much experience with bilingual review, working with translations, and editing. When done right, it is indispensable. When done wrong, it can become a cumbersome, lengthy and costly process.

These rules from Bob the Builder can help avoid or mitigate the most common review stage pitfalls.

The Sardine Sandwich Fallacy

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A competent builder, Bob is a terrible cook. Even worse, he thinks that his favorite sardine sandwiches (don’t ask) are an excellent lunch. The rest of the team does not agree.

Takeaway for translation review: a reviewer should be aware of his stylistic preferences. Ideally, so should be the translator, preferably at the stage of brief completion. Which brings us to the next rule…

The Mirror Ball Disaster

The delightful Silvain de Suza almost cancels a show because the site is not ready: no atmosphere, no mirror ball (and, well, no sprung floor). I suspect that in the real world those requirements would have been known in advance.

Translators also prefer to know in advance what’s required from their translation. This is when the translation brief comes in.

Before the start of the project the client lists all preferences (i.e. “sardine sandwich” in translation should be capitalized to highlight its wonderfulness), requirements, and additional information on the project (style of voice, target audience etc.).

The T-Rex Puzzle Curse

People do not perform well under pressure and do not make the best decisions under such circumstances. Disassembling a T-Rex skeleton and then trying to assemble it without any reference materials results in creating a modern art sculpture out of the bones – woefully inadequate for the purpose. This can happen to a translation, too. Avoid last-minute revisions and changes.


When translation review is a part of the translation process (as it should be), make sure that it allows everyone to do their job right. Ideally a reviewer sets expectations in advance, follows a suggested review process, and leaves enough time to resolve all of the edits or questions well before the final delivery date.

Not convinced that Bob the Builder is the right person for the job? Below is a list of serious resources on this topic.

Serious articles about translation reviews

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What is an In-Country or In-House Review? by Caitlin Nicholson, LinguaLinx

This post highlights that the main value of an in-house or an in-country review lies in subject matter expertise.

Editing a Translation: Things You Need to Know, Monterey Language Services Blog

A very brief post on self-editing.

Revision Guidelines for Translations, Multi-Languages Corporation

This blog post includes a very extensive description of the review process based on Brian Mossop’s Revising and Editing for Translators (a must-have). My review checklists are also based on this book, but I tend to adapt them reviewers based on a specific project.

Speed up in-country reviews of translations by Lise Bissonnette Janody

Highlights the importance of making the review process as smooth as possible, lists some additional ideas on how to avoid review delays.

Managing In-House Review of Translations by ASIST Translation Services

A short article with specific ideas on how to avoid unnecessary revisions and costs. In my experience, request for comments going beyond “I don’t like it” does help to weed out preferential changes that do not have a more specific reasoning behind them.

How to Manage Your In-house Review, Inline Translation Services

A short post with a PDF document with revision guidelines in PDF available for download

5 Language Review Pitfalls to Avoid with Local In-House Teams by Tucker Johnson

Examples of other biases that might affect the review process, with real-life examples (circling back to Bob the Builder - real-life Scoop Mountain Collapse of delegation + "revisions = thorough review". In BtB case, the collapse was a literal one.

Review Gone Out of Control? Focus Your In-Country Reviewers by Lee Densmer

5 simple steps to focus on what's important and avoiding (yes!) preferential changes.

6 Reasons to Stop Preferential Changes from Ruining Your QA Process by Lee Densmer

A separate article on why preferential changes are Evil (cue to the sound of Darth Vader's breathing...).

 Ekaterina Howard, Pinwheel Translations. English to Russian and German to Russian website localization, transcreation. Russian copywriting. ATA and CATI member.

Ekaterina Howard, Pinwheel Translations

English to Russian and German to Russian website localization, transcreation. Russian copywriting. ATA and CATI member.