Revisions made by non-native speakers - yay or nay?

Hi everyone,
I’m opening this topic to share an opinion / concern with you.
We all know that one same language can be spoken in different countries, thus having great differences. And if it’s true that most of the times it doesn’t compromise you understanding the message, it is also true that it´s usually fairly easy for you to recognize whether it is written by a native speaker or not (specially when it’s not).
“Where is she going with this?”, you may ask.
Should we narrow our revision tasks to texts that are written in our own language?
For example, is it reasonable for someone from Portugal (like me) to revise a brazilian-portuguese translation? Should someone from Brazil revise an european-portuguese translation?
I noticed that one of my translations had some changes made and these were probably made by someone from Brazil. As a result, when we read it, there are small things that just don’t sound natural for an european-portuguese speaker.
Please, don’t get me wrong, the issue here is not the fact that my translation was changed (at all), nor it it a problem with the reviser (absolutely, I don’t want to question his/her work). But given that it was changed into something that doesn’t sound natural, should we stick to revising texts written in our language/dialect?
I personally chose not to revise anything other than european-portuguese translations. This is obviously a personal choice but I truly believe that this is my best contribution, I’d rather leave those revisions to native speakers.
What do you think about it? Has it ever happened to you?
Am I being too strict about this?

Have a great day,


Hi Ana, thanks a lot for this great question. You are raising a very important point that is key for the work we do, because we do care a lot about language variants, and believe that is important that translators deliver work in languages they have a full competence in.
And you are right saying that you should only work on tasks for European Portuguese, just as Brazilian Portuguese translators should only work on tasks for Brazilian Portuguese. If this is not happening, or if you find that your European Portuguese translation has been changed into Brazilian Portuguese, please let the PM know.
I don’t know if my colleague @Manuel, our Quality and Process Coordinator, wants to add anything else - overall we agree with you and we encourage all translators to be mindful of the language variant of the tasks they are claiming and delivering.


Greetings Ana, I do agree with you that we should be mindful for the language variant, I remember almost a year ago I had that issue with my Congolese Swahili translation work, as in DR.Congo there are different Swahili spoken in different areas in the country, the reviser may not be able to impersonate the message the way a native speaker can get it. I think we better join Ambra’s relevant suggestions. kind regards


This is a very useful discussion that Ana has brought up. I am extremely careful when it comes to dealing with language variation that often comes up with languages that are spoken in different countries. And in fact there could be variations even with a language spoken within the borders of one country. We have similar issues in Swahili and Joel has mentioned it. Usually in Swahili the variations occur majorly at terminology level, often grammar and style are similar across the dialects. Ways in which the Swahili community has tried to mitigate any challenges with this variations are:

  1. Trying as much as possible to find in country reviser (what Ana refers to as native speakers). We are a bit careful here because we have native Congolese Swahili speakers who are actually living in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and elsewhere
  2. Make use of Standard Swahili native speaker who may be living within the country or elsewhere
  3. Our Swahili Language Lead who is familiar with different variants/dialects revises the final output
    NB:In all the above measures we make use of the glossary and TMs (and other terminology management systems) which will often be harmonized in line the right variation of the language.
    @Apala and @Ei_Ei and @Muhannad how does it work with your languages that I also know have this variation issue?

Thanks you for your replies @ambra @Joel2 and @paul.
I was struggling with the thought that i was being a bit too harsh and, at the end of the day, i don’t want to be cruel to my fellow translators/revisers.
Nonetheless, i trust that when we accept working as volunteers, we work just as hard as if we were in a paying position and this always means doing it with passion but also making sure we (twb) deliver our best.
This doesn’t mean our work will be perfect, it only means we should be humble enough to acknowledge that sometimes the best is to render it to somebody else.
Thanks for your kindness.
Wish you all a nice day!



Hi everyone!
Thanks @paul for bringing this to my attention, and thank you @AnaZ for raising such an issue. We do sometimes face such dilemmas with Arabic translations too, since there are many Arabic speaking countries and several acceptable rules for spelling, grammar etc.
Ideally, we would want the people who are closest to the target audience to do the work. Those from the same target country will know for example how to refer to certain concepts, types of food, objects etc.
There are also people who have adequate knowledge/experience that comes from sources like the Internet, traveling, TV, a friend, etc.
However, it should be kept in mind that non-natives will probably still have to consult those resources when facing something new, or else they might end up assuming that a translation something is correct just because they understand it perfectly.
In the end, I say native translators are the ideal candidates, but non-natives are also welcome when they understand the whole picture and are aware of what they need to do.


Thank you @paul for bringing up this issue. In Bengali we exclusively use Chittagongian revisers (a dialect of Bengali but quite different from standard Bangla).
Though I’m native Indian Bengali, I’m quite familiar with the Bengali variant used in Bangladesh through my heritage (I still use that with some of my relatives who are originally from BD) and I read a lot of Bangladeshi publications. I closely follow the community facing publications released by different NGOs, commercial orgs, government and of course local newspapers. But, still when I’m in doubt, I take help of our in-country language support @Mahmud or any other Bangladeshi friend.
So, my two cents – no.1 should be the best option but being native does not guarantee linguistic/bilingual (English or other source language) expertise. If you can find someone who can fulfill both the criteria, great!
No. 2, works if they have spent adequate time in the area to pick up the nuances of the dialect and again has linguistic/bilingual expertise.
No 3 is a good option if language lead keeps her/himself updated with the variant, keeps on reading the latest literature/publications and when in doubt, takes help from friends/family native to that variant.

Happy Translating!


Hi Paul, Yes, In Myanmar, we have some variants and of course, revision done by these speakers is mainly useful in the area where this variant is spoken (not for the whole population). I sometimes came across the translations/revisions done by these variant language speakers and it needed a lot of editing or QA :).


Hi @paul,
any news about my test? Thank you for your reply

Hi @faretto5 :slight_smile:
If you’re referring to a translation test, please post in the relevant thread and a member of staff of the Community team (Ambra, Joanna or myself) will assist you.

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Hi all,
sorry for using this discussion for asking about my test results. Anyway, I read all of your messages. I do not know the situation of your languages.
In Italy we mainly have one standard language. All the other variants are called dialects and it’s more difficult to find them in written documents.
I just wanted to highlight that in your courses I studied that we should not ask for help from friends or acquaitances while translating, but just leave the task to someone else, if we feel we are not good enough at it.
My question is: what happens if no one claims a task? Thanks for your reply

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Hello @faretto5 :slight_smile:
No worries, thank you for stepping in and for sharing your contribution with us. I know what you mean about dialects and variants as I am Italian too :wink:
Regarding your question, if a task doesn’t get claimed the Project Officer will usually contact a reliable translator which they know has delivered good work to sound out whether they can help or not.
Please claim the tasks which are relevant to your languages combinations - I have seen that you’ve supported us a great deal already and we can’t thank you enough for that :dizzy:


Hi everyone!
I came across this post recently and find it very useful and interesting. So I felt the need to share some personal ideas about it.

I think there can and probably needs to be a balance. That balance can be based on availability of translators, type of document, target audience, type of tasks. Some examples where a balance can apply are:
-If lifesaving information needs to reach a group of people with less access/familiarity to technology, it needs to be as localised as possible but it also needs to be quick. I have seen translation/revising tasks stay on the platform for long time for language pairs for which it’s probably more difficult to find translators; in such case for example, organising translators/revisers in a way that the revisers are those with the native target language could help (maybe TWB already does something like that?).
-Different idioms/grammar/pronunciation/spelling according to different countries with widely spoken languages (hence lots of translation tasks! Also more translators available :slight_smile: ): Again, organise translators based on criticality of perfect localisation, let translators use common wisdom for less critical ones.
-If the information is text to be posted on a website, most people that will have access to it will also be able to have access to a dictionary for some doubts.
-Translators in TWB are people really eager to help and I believe it’s only fair that they are able to gain experience and enhance their non native languages skills whilst doing so. Therefore, they might take on slightly challenging tasks and I believe this shouldn’t be completely discouraged in this environment.

Last but not least, I completely agree that it is primarily about translators selecting and committing to tasks wisely and ethically (e.g., translation or revision according to their capabilities, doing the research as needed while translating/revising).

Hope that wasn’t too confusing and that someone can share some thoughts about my ideas too!