5 Biggest Employee Handbook Translation Mistakes

We’ve titled this blog about mistakes when it comes to employee handbook translation services. A more positive way of stating things would be how to get better results in the process of translating employee handbooks. Here are a few suggestions.

1) Provide the handbook in an editable format

Professional translators can work with a wide variety of document formats including Word, PDF, and InDesign to to mention a few common file types. The easiest format to work with when available is MS Word. Word documents are directly editable. Any formatting can easily be retained in the final translation document. Some languages require more or less space to express the equivalent meaning in English so some minor adjustments might be needed. Spanish for instance is generally considered to require 10-15% more words relative to English. So some page expansion might be reasonable to expect when translating into Spanish.

2) Make sure proofreading services by a second linguist are included

Quality control is essential. There are various levels of services that translation companies and freelance translators provide. In most cases it’s important for a second linguist to proofread/review the translation of the first linguist. This process of translation and post-translation proofreading by a second translator normally provides a high quality translation. There’s also a process known as translation, editing, and proofreading (or TEP) that some professional translation companies follow to ensure a quality final translation deliverable.


What do translation services clients really buy? They buy the language skills and judgment of the assigned linguists.


3) Native speaking translators

Translators assigned to the project should be native speaking in the target language. The target language is the language going into so for example in an English-to-Spanish translation project, Spanish is the target language and English is the source. While translators are fully bilingual in the language pair they work in (e.g., English-Spanish, English-French, et. al.) their first language tends to always be the strongest language.

employee handbook translation mistakes

4) Allow enough time for the job

The highest quality translation outputs remain the product of human translators. On average a professional translator will competently translate somewhere around 3000 words per day. Some linguist do more, some a little less. Time must also be allowed for the proofreading quality assurance step. So be sure to plan ahead and allow enough time for delivery of a professional quality translation.

5) Set expectations appropriately

What do translation services clients really buy? They buy the language skills and judgment of the assigned linguists. There are typically multiple ways of expressing equivalent meaning in any language. This being the case, a given translator’s approach or choice of words will likely not match the subjective preferences of another person exactly, particularly a lay person even if they speak the target language.