Language Quality Reviews: How Much Does Expertise Matter?


What determines the success or failure of language quality reviews? The process is critical—but so is using the right people. 

Different projects, tasks, and content types require varying knowledge and skills, depending on your goals and strategy. Native speakers without professional credentials might be the right choice for some reviews. Conversely, domain-specific content often demands expert linguists with deep subject-matter expertise.

It’s crucial to pick the right level of language quality expertise for a specific job. This choice heavily influences your language quality program’s outcomes and return on investment. 

In the following article, we’ll explore the practical and strategic factors that guide the selection of reviewers to solve various quality challenges. We’ll also touch on how AI might challenge or augment the role of expertise.

Do You Always Need a Language Quality Pro? 

Professional linguists are the gold standard for language quality reviews. They know the international conventions that govern the field and ensure consistent standards. That enables them to provide feedback that the original translators can easily understand and use to improve their performance. 

Nonetheless, untrained native speakers may play a helpful role in some projects. Local knowledge may be vital for certain types of content. For example, local native speakers may have a more up-to-date grasp of specific language or cultural nuances than a professional linguist living outside the country or region. 

In addition, translation quality is sometimes less important than basic usability, depending on your needs and the specific type of content. 

Let’s say you’re localizing a large website with many product descriptions. You might only need to ensure that the content on those pages is comprehensible, contains essential elements, and avoids obvious factual mistakes or offensive language. Especially if your budget is limited, you may be able to live with lesser translation quality.  

Non-professional native speakers could be a cost-effective option for such content usability reviews. They could flag glaring issues and get you over your usability threshold while allowing you to save resources for content that demands higher linguistic quality. 

Nonetheless, be selective when using this type of strategy. For most localization projects, accuracy, consistency, fluency, and other quality dimensions are too important for anyone but a professional reviewer to evaluate. The stakes grow even higher when reviews require in-depth knowledge beyond standard linguistic expertise. 

Subject-Matter Experts: Taking Language Quality to the Next Level

Let’s consider legal documents, healthcare instructions, and scientific manuals. What’s the common denominator? 

Such domain-specific content uses terminology, specialized concepts, and conventions that even a highly educated native speaker is unlikely to understand. What’s more, these materials need to be virtually error-free. Even subtle mistakes could have financial impacts, legal repercussions, or worse.

If your localization program supports this type of content, relying on a language quality generalist isn’t enough. You need a subject-matter expert to validate and censure linguistic quality and precision.  

Most of the time, subject-matter experts are experienced translators who have focused on a particular field or industry over time. They cost more to employ than generalists, but they also have more focused skills and knowledge.  

For example, experts in medical translation are deeply familiar with the relevant terminology in both the source and target languages. That makes them vital for ensuring translation accuracy in a sensitive field like healthcare.

They can spot details and nuances that elude other language quality pros, even the most skilled. That’s the expertise you need to review specialized content about kidney transplants, cancer treatments, or cutting-edge medical technology.


Specialists and Generalists: Perfect Together

Subject-matter experts aren’t only helpful for highly technical or complex linguistic material. They can improve the quality of virtually any localized content dealing with a specific field, ensuring it resonates with its target audience.

For example, some localization programs use subject-matter experts to evaluate all externally facing content, such as their website and marketing materials. Such content impacts brand perception and customer relationships, so it needs to be pitch-perfect. 

At the same time, they may employ translators with more generalized expertise to review content aimed at people inside the organization, since such material often requires a lower level of refinement. This strategy ensures high translation quality in the most crucial areas while using resources cost-effectively. 

In short, a successful language quality program may combine subject-matter experts and generalists, depending on your content and needs. Consider the entire picture and make a strategic choice with your quality management team.

Does AI Reduce the Need for Human Expertise? 

Today’s generative AI can’t replace skilled language quality reviewers. Nonetheless, AI is altering the landscape for language quality management, possibly changing the approach and mix of personnel used for some projects. 

Generative AI allows companies to generate content directly in target languages without translation. They can produce vast amounts of multilingual content faster and at a lower cost than ever before. 

Businesses may struggle to access professional help to review all these AI-generating materials at an acceptable cost. Non-translators with native language skills might play a growing role in such cases.  

At the same time, AI makes language quality assessment more efficient, helping reviewers work faster by automating repetitive tasks. While AI has the advantage of speed, only humans can pick up subtleties that machines might miss or misinterpret.  

As a result, AI could make professional reviews more cost-effective for many projects, even if the content volume rises. With AI streamlining complex workflows, language quality specialists can focus on what they do best and provide more value than before.

How to Find and Deploy the Unbiased Expertise You Need

While non-professional native speakers may contribute to some projects, nothing can match the value of professional translation experience and subject-matter specialization. Likewise, human quality experts bring insights that machines are unlikely to replicate soon. 

So, how can localization managers and industry leaders harness the right level of expertise for quality assessments?  

Building an internal language quality team from scratch is an expensive, time-consuming endeavor. Meanwhile, most translation agencies have little incentive to perform internal unbiased reviews beyond basic QA steps, which typically aren’t enough to ensure optimal quality. They may offer language quality assurance as a service, but this is rarely as effective as an outside eye. 

Alternatively, you could turn to a third-party language quality provider. 

A third-party provider delivers unbiased quality assessments using proven strategies and subject-matter experts. That streamlines review for even the most complex projects, freeing you to concentrate on the other challenges facing your localization program. 

Are you looking to boost localization with language quality expertise? Contact Beyont to learn more about unbiased third-party solutions.