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An Introduction to Translation Quality Assurance

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by Yannis Nistas, Language Lead at Commit Global

Do you know anyone working in the production and services sector who has not ever heard of Quality Assurance (QA)? Sure, there might be a few, but nowadays QA has become ubiquitous in most economic activities. All organizations that take their mission seriously and respect their clients follow industry standards to ensure that a certain level of quality is maintained at every stage of the products and services they deliver. Therefore, Language Service Providers (LSPs) could not be missing from the list, and–to tell the truth–they should not, because translation is a multi-stage service with many people involved, so there has to be a common denominator for quality across the stages.

But how is the goal of QA attained in our industry? In this case, it takes three to tango. You need a perfect combination of the technology factor, the process factor and–last but not least–the human factor  to bring the desired outcome. Let’s have a closer look!

The Technology Factor

Technology has been leaving its mark since it was introduced in the translation industry. Today, we heavily rely on software tools, also known as computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools, for our daily tasks. The most popular of them are translation memory tools, terminology management tools and QA checkers.

Presenting in detail such tools and how they work could be the topic of a dedicated article. So, to cut a long story short: CAT tools help us do more in less time and–equally important–they ensure that high quality is maintained through generic and customizable QA features that help spot and fix different kinds of inconsistencies and errors.

The Process Factor

A typical translation service delivery routine includes more or less five steps:

  • Translation–It is performed by a domain-specialized translator with a high-level proficiency in each given source and target language. When translation is completed, QA checks are run and any errors are corrected.
  • Editing–A different person, domain-specialized with a high-level proficiency in the given source and target language, checks the translation against the source text looking for grammar/syntax, style, terminology errors and other kinds of errors, as well as typos. When editing is completed, QA checks are run and any errors that are not caught or that occur during editing are corrected.
  • Proofreading–Another person with high-level language proficiency reads only the translated text and refines it to sound natural in the target language, focusing on grammar/syntax errors, typos, consistency and coherence. When proofreading is completed, QA checks are run and any errors that are not caught or that occur during proofreading are corrected.
  • Desktop Publishing (DTP)–If needed, the translated text gets its final layout and format by a person skilled in DTP to resemble the layout and format of the source text. Take only a few minutes to read our blog post on the importance of DTP for translations here.
  • Linguistic Sign-Off (LSO)–This is the final stage of a translation project during which a linguist ensures that the translated document is usable in the context for which it was created. After that, the document can be published.

What is crucial is to have different pairs of eyes work on the same text, each with a different focus, to help deliver a high-quality translation service.

The Human Factor

Although technology and processes claim their fair share in QA, it is humans that really make a difference; they are the X factor. Translators, editors, proofreaders, DTP specialists, translation project managers, all should have expert knowledge and relevant credentials; competence in their field; an eye for detail. People pursuing quality also have professional ethos, which means that no standard process is skipped under any circumstances; no compromise is made regarding quality of work; exhaustive research for domain-specific terminology is done where needed; translation choices are well documented. And of course, project managers should provide coordination during all stages of a translation service, from selecting the right resources to making sure industry standards are applied by all parties including themselves.

The takeaway: Responsible and expert people following standardized workflows with the help of software tools are the key to a successful quality assurance process in the translation industry.

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