How to Address Translation Quality: Some Fundamental Rules

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If you have ever wondered how to address translation quality, chances are you came across many decisions to make and problems to solve in advance.

Quality is a priority for any product and service, but this is especially true with translation, where you have a lot of things to consider when hiring a translation service.

And given this intellectual task is essentially the result of many subjective factors, there is not a single way of assessing quality in translation.

However, it’s possible to reach a consensus around a set of minimum quality rules to adhere to.

Apart from language requirements for each country or region, there are other aspects that set a solid basis towards an outstanding translation job.

Quality of the source text

Many language service providers (LSP) do not set up their quality assurance process (QAP) until a translator finishes his/her first draft.

However, there are some key points to take into account before beginning any other task that will let you better know how to address translation quality.

The source document preparation stage will avoid serious mistakes afterward, as this will prevent project delays, inconsistencies, and obvious translation errors.

In this task, LSP should review the source text carefully to make sure it’s free of typos, misspellings, and gaps, noting any aspect that might require further clarification.

This important task will help cut down costs and will end up in a better-quality deliverable.

Reference materials will help to improve translation quality

If available, LSP will build on any previously approved translations that will serve as a reference to set the translation quality goals.

Starting with a glossary creation is common practice and will help to ensure consistency and accuracy as it will provide a source of keywords and a terminology reference.

In case there is not a glossary to follow, LSP can prepare this document beforehand and this will be a valuable resource for translators and editors.

Any time spent in preparing this document will redound in a subsequent time and cost saving in the long run.

Another useful and recommended resource to start is a style guide.

A translation style guide is a set of instructions and rules meant to achieve quality in terms of grammar, formatting, punctuation, numbers, measurements, acronyms, abbreviations, capitalization, and virtually any other aspect that may contribute to attain consistency and improve the translation.

There is a vast array of elements to consider when preparing a style guide. It may depend on the audience, subject, and tone, among others.

For instance, if you assume not all readers will be native speakers of English you may opt for a simple, logical and clear style.

So there are many types of style guides according to every single situation, from short and quick guides to real linguistic handbooks.

If possible, use or define your style guide according to your needs. It will be a good, first step on the road to the success of your final copy.

Translation quality assurance process

Quality assurance encompasses a multi-layered process aimed to review and check translated and edited documents, allowing translators and language service providers better know how to address translation quality.

There are different stages, from initial project review and translation preparation to style guide and terminology management, all of them to ensure the highest quality.

There are several international standards taking care of this important phase of the translation process among which EN 15038:2996 and ISO 17100:2015 are crucial. From November 2015, ISO 17100 supersedes EN 15038.

EN 15038 is the European Quality Standard for Translation Service Providers that covers the core translation process and related aspects regarding the supply of translation services.

It gives both translation service providers and end clients a description and definition of the entire service and provides a set of procedures and requirements to meet the market needs.

The ISO 17100 standard describes the requirements for all phases of the translation process to achieve quality, including provisions regarding the management of processes, qualification requirements and the availability of resources.

Apart from these standards, there are some recommendations to follow before hiring a language service provider. Let’s see some of the most important ones.

Translators and reviewers should have the required background and expertise, according to the quality level of your documents.

This is of utmost importance as it will influence the quality of your translation and review process. You can request your LSP a blank CV of translators and reviewers in case of a translation agency.

A blank CV is a curriculum vitae or résumé showing the translator´s history, skills, abilities and achievements, education, and qualifications of the professionals that will take care of your documents where personal information such as name, surname, and contact details is missing.

Most translation agencies have onboarding rules for new language professionals where they have to meet a minimum experience and qualification standard. If you are hiring a professional linguist instead of a translation agency, request all this information beforehand.

This way you will make sure your translation will be in good hands.

Translator and reviewers should be native in the target language

It’s commonly accepted that a professional linguist must be native in her/his target language, as this will guarantee the utmost quality possible.

So make sure your LSP complies with this crucial requirement.

You can also look for references and testimonials from other clients regarding your LSP.

Remember that the translation industry is a field where the most qualified professionals are experts in certain subject matters, so avoid using the services of a person claiming to be an expert in too many areas. 

For example, it makes little sense for a professional to be an expert in medical and financial translations, as these are different areas of specialization.

Also, it’s recommended that the professionals who will take care of your documents have an educational background and hands-on experience in their domain.

Spellcheck and review

Most word processors and computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools have a spell check functionality that users can and should use when finishing their first draft. For translators and editors, this is a routine task.

However, many times I’ve come across misspellings and typos that one can fix by using this tool.

Although this is part of the LSP´s responsibility and they usually take care of it, we must keep an eye on it and always ensure the final text is thoroughly spell-checked and reviewed.

I hope this information will help you get a better approach on how to address translation quality and if you in doubt, always consult your language service provider before deciding.

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