Open Translation Tools


If translation is the task of converting a source document from one language to another then its helpful to understand that workflow is simply the flow of the translation task from one role player to another.  It is important not to lose sight of the fact that we are still translating a document and that the workflow is just a number of steps that we follow to ensure that the task is performed with excellence.

The areas, steps or stages of a translation workflow are similar whether we are talking about the translation industry, traditional open translation, localisation or crowd-sourced translation.  Whether the processes scale has more to do with the technology used and how each of the areas are implemented in practice.

TEP: Translation, Editing, Proofreading

Translating the content is king and thus Translation, Editing and Proofreading (TEP) is central to the translation workflow.  The translation industry developed the concept with the idea that every translation is worked on and looked at by three different sets of eyes.  In reality smaller translation teams might not have such a luxury of resources.

As the number of languages grows it is easy to see how there would be an increasing communication burden and why Translation Management Systems (TMS) are used to ease and facilitate communication between role players.

In the traditional TEP process a translator will receive the work to be translated, instructions and resources.  The task is that they translate this into the target language.  Once complete the work is sent to the editor who will review the work.  This would include tasks such as checking terminology use, language use, grammar, etc.  Lastly the work is sent for proofreading where the body of work is seen as a whole and approved by the proofreader.

Major issues might result in the work moving back a stage for rework in which the tasks would then be performed again.

Any of these role players might communicate with the customer either directly or through the project manager to ask for clarity on terminology or the content.

Project Management

If we view translation projects as a task that needs to be project managed then we can understand the supporting stages surrounding the TEP process.  These stages are usually performed by different people but follow a generally linear sequence.

Contracting or Selection

How do we know what work to translate?  In the translation industry that is simple, companies are contracted to perform a translation task.  In the open translation world it is a little different but there will still almost always be some sort of agreement on what work is to be undertaken.

Selection of work can happen in these ways:

  • The paying client selects the work
  • The project needing translation highlights which areas need translation, probably prioritising these.
  • The translator themselves selects whatever they feel like translating
Regardless of how the selection takes place at the end of this stage we have two things.  Firstly, a piece of content to translate and secondly some sort of agreement to perform the translation.


At this stage we are focussed on ensuring that everything is ready for the TEP workflow to begin and to run smoothly.

Here are some of the tasks that might be performed at this stage:

  • Pretranslation - checking and adjusting texts so that it is easier to translate.  This could include breaking complex sentences apart, correcting logic in arguments, ensuring consistent terminology use, etc.
  • Engineering - it may be necessary to extract the text from some system in which case localisation engineers will transform the text from one format to another
  • Resource preparation - this could involve a number of tasks.  Extracting terminology from the text and preparing new terminology lists or selecting which existing terminology lists to use for the project.  Selecting which translation memory resources to use.  Developing or selecting style guides.
  • Translation brief - writing the instructions for the translators to follow when translating.
  • Assignment - delegating work and roles to different translators in different languages

The aim is that at the end of this process you have the right translators selected, that they are translating good texts, that they have the right resource to assist them and they are following clear instructions.  With this in place it will help keep all languages consistent throughout the linguistic process.


Once the translation is complete and has moved through all of the TEP cycles there may be this last stage.  Some of the aspects covered here could include:

  • Engineering - transforming translations back into the original format.  Of course only relevant if there was some sort of engineering at the start
  • Layout - there may be some DTP work to layout the translated text.
  • In product review - checking everything in the final state to ensure that all layout, engineering and other tasks have not broken anything.
  • Quality assurance - usually this is part of the TEP process but it is possible to run some QA processes at this late stage to catch errors.

Delivery and  invoicing

With the work complete it is delivered to the client.  In the traditional model that is the delivery of the work together with the invoice.  In the open content model that could simply mean that the translation is published for public consumption.

New Methods and Adaptations of the Workflow

It is important to view new technologies that are assisting with the translation workflow in context of the previous general workflow.

Thus, crowd sourcing professional or volunteer translations is simply a different way of selecting the people to perform the roles in the various stages of the workflow.  Similarly, machine translation technologies are simply tools that are selected as resources in the preparation stage to assist the translators in the TEP stage.

These workflows may need to be adapted to the needs and resources of the project.  For instance if you have one Vietnamese translator then following a full TEP process is impossible, there should be flexibility with awareness of the risks involved.  A simplified process can also assist other languages where they would be able to translate more work when resources are freed from all tasks of the TEP.

New approaches are also looking at involving more people in each of the stages of TEP.  Thus instead of one translator there might be five.  Various approaches can be adopted to reduce the risks involved.  This could include allowing one lead translator and four people making suggestions.  Or, five translators and one editor.