Note: This blog entry was originally written in Japanese in March 2020 for our Japanese website. We used our machine translation platform Translation Designer to translate the entry into English and to post-edit the output for readers outside of Japan. The original Japanese entry can be found here.

It's easy to think that translators can translate any text into another language 100% perfectly, but that's not the case. Even a translator who has a long career may not understand the intention of the original text or may be worried about the interpretation of the text. This is not necessarily due to the lack of ability of translators, but is often due to "force majeure" reasons such as when working on a content related to products that have not yet been released or that has incorrect information in the original text. In such a case, translators try to figure out an appropriate translation by doing some research, but if they still feel uneasy about the translation even after doing their best, they will leave comments as a last resort.

"Leaving comments" means to actually leave comments for the attention of the reviewer, who is checking the translation in the next process. Any unclear points or concerns are included in these comments. But these are not just a matter of communication. In fact, it can also be an index for evaluating translators. Now let's take a look at some of the points of what kind of comments from translators are preferred.

If you don't know something, simply tell that you don't know

Firstly, if a translator reads the original text and don't know what the proper translation should be, which response is better?

Translator A: "I'm going to translate it for the time being and submit it as it is."
Translator B: "I'm going to translate it for the time being and leave a comment at the time of delivery that I did not understand it well."

Needless to say, the latter is more reliable.

If you honestly say, "I don't know," for what you don't understand, the reviewer can also focus on that part to prevent quality deterioration. Of course, it's best to have less comments. However, if there are no or very few comments when a certain amount is expected, such as a new project for the translator or a large-scale project with a huge amount of translation, the reviewer may feel anxious. "I wonder if this translator really looked into the content?" (And most of the time, from past experience, that feeling is right.)

Write your comments carefully

Next is how to write the comments. The person in charge of the review, who is checking the translation in the next process, confirms the comments left by the translator. A review is the work of checking whether the translated text delivered by the translator is correct, and the person who performs this work is called a reviewer. Unlike translation, a review usually takes less time than translation because you don't have to create a translation from scratch.

For example, when a translator thinks the original text has incorrect information, just writing "I think A is supposed to be B" is not a good comment. Reviewers don't take the translator's comment word for word. They need to make sure that the translator's suggestion is really correct. Therefore, simply commenting "I think A is supposed to be B" requires the reviewer to investigate the rationale for the translator to come up with the suggestion. As mentioned above, reviewers don't have as much time to spend on the work as translating, so they can't afford to spend time confirming the suggestions. For that reason, it is desirable to also write the basis of the suggestion so that the reviewer can easily check the comment. For example, "Because ABC is written on the XYZth row of the same page."

In addition to this, if you are uncertain about the translated text, such as not being confident that you understand the original text properly or multiple interpretation of the original text is possible depending on the context, it is a good idea to leave comments of why you chose that translation and offering the different interpretation as well. The reviewer always looks at the comments to determine if the translator's work is correct or not. By providing reviewers with the necessary information to support the suggestion as much as possible, it can save reviewers the trouble.

Comment on only what is necessary

Also, it does not mean that you can leave comments for anything. If the original text is clearly wrong by any means, such as a simple typo, and does not affect the translated text, you should not leave a comment. In this case, even if you leave a comment, it will only increase unnecessary things to confirm for the reviewer.


We hope this gives you an idea of how to leave comments. It seems simple but is complex. The way you write it and what you write in it are deep enough to gauge the translator's ability. By the way, regarding the whereabouts of the comments, usually the review is handled by a person who is familiar with the subject, so what is left in the comments will be resolved at the review process to some extent. If the reviewer cannot come up with a decision, the comments will be finally left for the client and will be used to improve the translation in the next project.

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