Why Translation Client Reviewers Make Unnecessary Edits

Translation clients may be reticent to agree, but client-side reviewers of professionally prepared translations may have an unconscious (or even conscious) incentive to make edits and changes in professionally prepared translations and incorrectly label their changes as “corrections” to translator errors. In many cases such questionably designated reviewers (who possess some but not a high level of language skills) do a disservice to the organizations whose interests they supposedly support. In the process they can also adversely affect the client/vendor relationship between translation customers and translation vendors.

Why do internal client-side translation reviewers do this? What is the unspoken incentive?

Social psychologists John French and Bertram Raven in 1959 identified five bases of power and in so doing shed light on one possible rationale. The five bases of power mentioned in connection with organizational behavior are:

  1. Legitimate – This comes from the belief that a person has the right to make demands, and expect compliance and obedience from others.
  2. Reward – This results from one person’s ability to compensate another for compliance.
  3. Expert – This is based on a person’s superior skill and knowledge.
  4. Referent – This is the result of a person’s perceived attractiveness, worthiness, and right to respect from others.
  5. Coercive – This comes from the belief that a person can punish others for noncompliance.

Acquiring “expert” power may be a motivation for reviewers to make preferential and other unnecessary changes to already high quality, acceptable translations prepared by native speaking professional translators. When internal company reviewers make changes to delivered translation and/or otherwise call out what they label as errors, they in effect place themselves as experts in a language, and in the process elevate their importance and position in an organization. The reviewer may be the only person in their organization with some skill in a particular language. Employers and organization managers, who lack the ability to properly evaluate internal reviewer modifications, are thus mislead. The choice becomes do they accept the comments of an internal reviewer, a person they may need to work with on a continuing day-to-day basis, or stick with the recommendations of an external translation vendor? Even the most skilled business manager may find such a choice to be challenging.