Every time a document is updated, it can bring a whole slew of consequences, making the translation step both time-consuming and costly. It is possible, however, to minimize the risks involved in the multilingual translation of updated documents. Gemino understands the workflows required when translating updates and where the limits of scalability are. And most importantly, we understand how to avoid costly surprises. Anyone who changes something that already exists should know their “property” inside out.

But what does translation have to do with renovating buildings? Let’s find out.

Imagine you’re planning a new build. This is where you get to enjoy a lot of freedom. Almost everything can be adapted and when everyone knows their trade, the processes all work. The same could be said for new translations. But translations of updated documents, where the previous version has already been completed, are more like renovations of old buildings. Everything seems good, the building appears solid – and yet every hole you drill could result in an unpleasant surprise. That’s why good craftspeople don’t just drill anywhere. They know what they’re doing. We know what we’re doing here at Gemino, too. We adapt the processes to the project requirements.

To do this, we need to know which conditions apply to the respective update. Ideally, we should know which parts of the document have been changed. It’s also crucial that priorities are defined in advance, such as costs, consistency, quality, and schedule. The type of changes and the number of them also play a role, as do the framework conditions and follow-up processes (e.g. approvals). These can all be different in each target language, for each document and for each change. Of course, CAT tools are definitely useful for this but they still don’t guarantee an efficient update workflow.

What is the right workflow?

A) Ideal-case scenario:
The translation is updated on a selective basis (patchwork method)

When making changes to your document, you should specify exactly where the changes can be found and what they are – and there shouldn’t be too many of them. As long as this is the case, a selective transfer of the individual changes into the previous target-language versions can be the optimal solution. This means that the new, updated target language documents can be produced quickly and at comparatively low cost. What’s more, the new and amended passages of text are stored in the translation memory database (TM) for future use.

Let’s take a look at the process in more detail:

The individual new or amended text passages are extracted from the document sentence by sentence and translated in a separate file using the CAT tool and any existing TMs. After this, all amended/new texts are transferred to the old target language translations.


  • No changes are made to the existing translation in the previous document version – this is a great plus point, especially for documents with complex approval processes.
  • This is a quick and inexpensive process for small changes.


  • If the change history has not been fully documented, there will be discrepancies in the content of the target-language document.
  • This increases the risk of errors being introduced due to purely manual changes.
  • There’s no review and adaptation of the previous translation (e.g. with regard to terminology that might have changed in the meantime).

B) Normal-case scenario:
Complete update of the translation

It’s not always possible to trace the exact points at which a document has been changed. This could be because several people have revised it. The layout and graphics are also frequently adapted when updating the content. This all quickly adds up to a lot of changes that are no longer consistently documented.

If the target-language versions of the document need to be “synchronized” with the new source language version, a complete update project in the CAT tool may be necessary and it also makes economic sense.

We can differentiate between two different scenarios here:

1. The files from the previous project are available

If the previous project was translated in the same CAT tool, then the new version can be pre-translated using the bilingual file(s) created as part of the previous project. The advantage here is that the translations contained in the previous version are transferred 1:1 to the new version. Unwanted changes to the text passages that have remained identical to the previous version can be largely excluded. New/amended text is translated in the CAT tool as usual.

2. The files from the previous project are NOT available

Even in this scenario, the document can be imported into the CAT tool and translated using the existing TMs. The matches from segments that have already been translated are not necessarily document-specific in this case, but come from the entire translation memory database. The newly translated version will then be different from the previous one. But it might even be better!


  • The entire document is revised/updated as a whole.
  • New/amended text passages are considered in context.
  • Errors in the previous translation can be detected and corrected.


  • This takes more time and there are higher costs involved in comparison to a selective update.
  • Text passages that have remained identical when compared to the previous version may be changed unnecessarily.


Further aspects to be considered when updating projects

Layout: It’s possible that the layout may have been changed. This, too, must be replicated across all languages. Depending on the type and scope of the layout changes, as well as the client’s objectives, this will then determine whether a selective or a complete update is the best option.

Number of changes: The number of changes is really significant. Especially when it comes to projects that are updated on a regular basis, selecting the best possible workflow must be mapped via rules.
One of these rules might be: Workflow variant A for less than 10 changes – variant B for more than 10 changes.

CMS: Content management systems are designed to manage content efficiently. In the case of updates, the default option is for the system to therefore only output new or changed text. This helps to reduce the translation costs. That being said though, some changes (e.g. changes to terminology) require amendments to be made throughout the entire document – i.e. also to the existing text. In this instance, alternative ways must then be found to implement these changes throughout the new document.

Quality: The quality of an update is equivalent to that of a new translation: a correctly translated, stand-alone document that is coherent and fit for purpose. To ensure this is the case, all sections of text in a document must be checked, even the unchanged parts. This is because a single change may have an impact on the entire document, or terminology might have changed in the meantime. Without a complete review, there is always the risk that the new version of the document will be inconsistent or not fully up-to-date.

Crucial factors for an optimal workflow:
Prioritizing goals

In order to efficiently integrate CAT systems into translation processes, we must decide what the focus will be – preferably the objective that will be achieved through the respective update. Objectives can be set either universally, by document type, or individually on a case-by-case basis. The priorities set by you, the customer, then determine the optimal workflow. What is the most important thing to you when it comes to updating your document?

  • Assured consistency between versions?
  • The best possible quality (complete review and revision of the document)?
  • Minimizing translation costs and project lead times?
  • Complete control, i.e. traceability and documentation of changes or minimization of the effort involved in the approval process (e.g. in-country review)?

Or to put it another way:
Efficiency is a matter of opinion. You tell us what’s most important to you.

So it’s fair to say that
even when it comes to “renovating” a document, good planning is everything. Here at Gemino, we assess the risks and opportunities related to each update project on an individual basis. We then decide on a workflow based on your specifications. This ensures you achieve the best result for the intended use. To put it another way, we see ourselves as architects and craftspeople for multilingual updates.