Translating large projects may be a convoluted affair. Using a translation worksheet is often a good idea. In this article, we will talk about translating process and specifically how it may be reflected in a translation worksheet.

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This post has been updated in October 2021.

Translation Worksheet: Before Translating

Using CAT Tools

Before starting a translation or using a translation worksheet, the use of CAT tools must be considered. CAT stands for ‘Computer Assisted Translation’. They are not quite machine translation like Google Translate, for example. CAT tools do not translate, as machine translation would. They simply facilitate the process for a human translator. The main advantages of using CAT tools are:

  • Translation Memory: This creates a memory of translated phrases. When a specific phrase reappears, the translation memory suggests using the phrase already translated and stored.
  • Glossary: A CAT tool allows the human translator to create a glossary of terminology. When a term reappears later on, the system suggests the translation in the glossary. This is similar to the translation memory, but is a more deliberate process and deals with specific terms and words, instead of segments.

Polishing the Original Text

Translators often encounter lackluster original texts riddled with issues. It is the job of a translator, to transform these texts from the source language into the target language, sure. But what if the text is poorly written in the original? What is the responsibility of a translator in this case? Consider this fictional extract of an article review:

Review of  Article “Drugs in Mexico: How has narcoterrorism settled in Mexico?”

The article collects a noteworthy volume of information on drug trafficking in Mexico and at the same time is supporting itself on one ample revision of the literature that is specialized to the topic of drug trafficking. On this grounding, the text is dealing with the two relevant issues to understand the exponential growth of violence in relation to drug traffic in that country (Mexico). From this point of view, the text is adequate for publication in our magazine but in any case, the solidness and strength of the article would be substantially improved if there are some changes that would be introduced in its content and structure and it is in this sense, it would be recommended by us that the author carry out the following series of modifications before the text is published that are described in the second section of this review.

Does the preceding passage have problems? You bet. It is very wordy, with extremely long sentences. It could be broken up into smaller paragraphs as well. In fact, it is quite convoluted and difficult to follow and could definitely use a good editing and polishing before translation.

Striking a Balance

Poorly crafted original texts may have a lot of issues, like we just saw. For starters, they may have flaws in spelling and grammar. Moreover, the style of the writing itself may be too complicated, with extremely long paragraphs.

Some translators are of the opinion that it is their duty to provide such a text with a polish. This process of polishing is meant to improve the text, so that the translation process can provide better results. Such polishing may be as simple as a proofread and spelling check or as systematic as a profound editing process.

translation worksheet for language localization

Other translators think that polishing an original is not the duty of a translator. These language professionals feel that such a process should not be included in a translation worksheet. The argument here is that a translator must deal with translating from a source language and into a target language; that is the extent of their work. Polishing, or tampering, with an original text may be problematic: the client may feel it is an undue intromission. Also, such polishing procedure may simply take too long; professional translators must fill a quota of translations daily, weekly and monthly, lest they run into financial trouble themselves!

Let It Be

We think that polishing should not be included in a translation worksheet. It is simply too cumbersome on a translator to wear the hat of a language professional and be forced to wear that one of an editor as well. Moreover, it is true that clients may very well not recognize themselves in a polished text. As improved as it may be, they could feel it is not their text and they would not be wrong, really.

The only exception to this principle is if the translator and the client agree on a polishing process, and, naturally, on added compensation for the translator-turned-editor. Otherwise, in a translation worksheet we must jump straight into translation. No polishing is necessary.

Precision vs. Aesthetics

The other topic that must be confronted before translating, is the dualism between precision and aesthetics. Precision is staying true, in the most literal sense, to the original source language text. Aesthetics is the pull to make a language ‘read’ and ‘sound’ better. At times, such a dualism is a zero-sum affair: the more we focus on one, the less we can focus on the other.

Some translators focus on precision over aesthetics. They feel that the job of a translator is fidelity to a text, over any other consideration. This approach is certainly prized in many translation certifications around the world. In certain industries, like legal or medical translation, it is a must.

Other translators think that it is necessary to honor the language and make the translation as aesthetic as possible. This is particularly important in literary translation, for example.

Precision is Better

So, who is right? This is a complicated issue in translation, but the best policy is focusing on precision. Precision should be the first instinct in a translator. The translation worksheet process could go something like this:

  • The translator evaluates the original text and sets out to translate precisely.
  • If the text is literary and/or if the translator considers that the translation calls for more aesthetics and less precision, the translator must discuss this with the client.
  • Once the client authorizes a focus on aesthetics, the translator may proceed to translate. Meaning and intent must always be preserved, whilst allowing more beauty and flexibility in the language itself.
  • Regardless of this authorization, even when translating for aesthetics, a translator must be prudent and change as little as humanly possible.

The Nitty-Gritty of a Translation Worksheet

Once a translator has solved the preceding topics (the issue of polishing and the issue of precision/aesthetics), it is time to get on with translating. A translation worksheet could be organized in the following manner:


The most important part of translation is evidently the act of translating itself. Here, a translator should strike a balance between agility and thoroughness.

Translators are often pressed for time. Either they want to finish fast, or they have a client who needs the work urgently. It is an unfortunate feature of translating that it must often be performed under duress and in very short time-frames.

The problem with such haste is that segments/phrases may get lost if there is too much urgency. A very hasty translator may get a document translated rapidly, only to find that important phrases, perhaps even sections, were not translated at all and were skipped over.

The solution is to be agile but not reckless. Every single phrase/segment must be translated.


A translation worksheet must also include some process of checking/revision. Again, a translator must strike a balance between thoroughness and celerity.

The problem with this process of revision is that a translator can waste too much time doing it. Indeed, a translator may either (i) revise the whole text when it is completely translated or (ii) check each phrase/segment if they are using CAT tools or (iii) a combination, where they may check each translated page or paragraph. As can be noted from this, a process of revision is very cumbersome and time-consuming.

The issue with not revising and simply concentrating on translating fast is that there is a great risk of missing original text. Such checking, however, may be as simple as being aware that all sections are being translated and nothing much else.

translating with the help of a translation worksheet

Final Adjustments

Once a translation is finished, there are some other parts in a translation worksheet:


Now that there is a full translation, it is important to give the text one final read-through and fix spelling, typos, etc. Naturally, again, a translator is confronted with a need to check for typos and the need for celerity in translation.

A translator could probably attempt to do a quick revision, aided by a computer spell-check.


An original text usually has a layout and colors which must be preserved in a translation document. This is where the use of CAT tools by a translator can help; they automatically preserve such an original layout.

Fonts and Paging:

In this part of a translation worksheet or process, it is important to check that the fonts and page numbers in the original text are being retained.

The Gist of It: A Basic Translation Worksheet

Here is a translation worksheet in its most basic form, guided by the principles discussed:


*No polishing of the original text.

*Precision above all else.

*If the text is literary, the translator must receive a go-ahead from the client to make an aesthetic translation.

*Even such aesthetic translation must change original text as little as humanly possible.

    1. Translate fast but thoroughly. Make sure every single segment is accounted for as you translate.
    2. When translating is done, run a spell-check and then give the document a once-over proofread.
    3. Make sure the original layout is respected (colors, fonts, paging).

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