How To Check The Quality Of Your Translation


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An increasing number of businesses are using translation to gain new customers, attract investment funding, raise awareness of their brand and broker the most cost-effective deals with international suppliers. However, it can be tricky knowing how to choose the best translation agency. Then, once you’ve chosen the agency, how do you know they’ve done a good job?

How Do You Check Translation Quality?

If you’ve hired a translation company to translate your corporate documents into a new language, then chances are you don’t speak that language fluently. If you did, why would you need a translation agency? Perhaps you speak a little of the language, but not enough to write professionally in it. Or perhaps you don’t speak it at all. In these circumstances, how do you ensure that your translation agency has produced a high-quality translation if you can’t check it yourself?

  • In order to assure yourself of the quality of the translation, you’ll need a native speaker of that language. If you have a friend who speaks the language, that’s great. Coerce them into reviewing the translated document (or a section of it, at least), and then grill them thoroughly on how natural the language sounds, whether the phrasing is right and so forth. If they confirm that the language is tiptop, that’s great. If not, it could be time to find another translation company!
  • Of course, if you don’t have a friend/staff member/other acquaintance who speaks the target language, then it could be worth asking another translation agency to review the quality of the translated document. They will probably want a small fee for doing so, but it could be money well spent if it brings you peace of mind, knowing that your translation is flawless. 

Finding The Right Translation Agency

  • If your business document translation is not up to standard, consider using a different translation company for your next translation. Decent companies should be clear on their pricing up-front, respond to your inquiries in a timely manner and provide you with a set deadline as to when you can expect to receive the translation from them. If a company doesn’t offer all of these things at the very least, move along!
  • The right business translation agency should be easy to deal with, cost-effective and – most importantly – produce high-quality translations that your company will be proud to be associated with. After all, the translated documents are going out in your company’s name, so it behooves you to ensure they are of the same standard as you would produce in your native language! 

So How Does One Tell When The Quality Story Is Real Or Not?

There are also no independent evaluation agencies available to provide translation buyers with meaningful and objective clues on the quality of the service offerings of different LSPs. Imagine buying a car with no knowledge of key specifications, reliability ratings, crash-safety data, or any idea of how much ongoing maintenance is required on the car. Unfortunately, this is often the situation a translation buyer finds themselves in. This post is an attempt to clarify this issue for all existing and future customers, and also raise the quality of the customer experience of all our customers.

The difficulty arises because of the following factors:

  1. Subjective Evaluation of translation product: Sometimes this can be as arbitrary as asking a friend who spent a summer in Spain to assess a Spanish translation!
  2. Buyers have limited or no knowledge of the target language: While some companies may have an in-country staff to review translations, many companies may not have access to these resources and thus have to depend on the LSP to deliver a quality product.
  3. Lack of agreement on what quality means: Translation in the business context needs to be suited to the purpose and some content e.g. legal liability related content, and core marketing messaging, needs more attention than technical support content that may only have a shelf life of a month. In a business translation situation, the price and timeliness of the work have to be balanced with the value of the translation in the overall business mission.
  4. Expectations that are not aligned with budget and time reality. The best quality requires multiple eyes and levels of review which can be done at a higher budget and with more time.

The driving force behind the translation of business content is to find success in an international market. The translated content needs to hit the mark in each country and region in terms of suitability, appropriateness, usefulness, and accuracy in the information about your products or services. Translation errors can be embarrassing or even seriously damaging when they result in culturally inappropriate or completely wrong messages. At best, translation errors and awkward syntax will only damage your brand reputation and image; at worst, they may cause financial and legal problems that threaten your company’s future in an international market.

So, what is quality? 

Is it possible to have a basic definition of this to enable better communication on the subject? While the following description is not perfect or all-encompassing, it facilitates us getting a basic understanding of the scope of the subject. It is important for a buyer to understand how their LSP measures quality and know that this quality assurance mentality is properly integrated into their standard production process. Agencies that don’t have a de facto quality-focused culture and production process are not likely to be able to produce a quality service.

The Basic Criteria That A Translation Service Provider Offering A Quality Service Should Fulfill

A Translation

Correct transfer of information from the source text to the target text.

  • Appropriate choice of terminology, vocabulary, idiom, and register in the target language.
  • Appropriate use of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and syntax, as well as the accurate transfer of dates, names, figures, etc. in the target language.
  • The appropriate style for the purpose of the text

B. Work process

  • Certification in accordance with national and/or international quality standards.

 Thus, we see that there are two clear dimensions to the issue:

  1. The actual translation work itself described by a) above, and
  2. The translation production process which can be substantiated by certifications from standards bodies described b) above. This assures a buyer that a strict and certified production process is in place and thus provides assurance that a quality deliverable is a likely outcome on a regular and consistent basis These certifications have a strong focus is on administrative, documentation, review and revision processes not just the quality assessment of the final translation.

However, the translation quality could mean different things as Common Sense Advisory points out and it is important to ensure that the same reference point is being used.

5 Definitions of Translation Quality

  1. Perfection
    • The translation meets ideals for accuracy and language
  2. Compliance with Specifications
    • The translation adheres to specifications within a reasonable tolerance
  3. Process-Based
    • The translation is produced according to process
  4. Value
    • The translation delivers the best value for the money

LSPs that have considered the quality issue deeply will have clearly documented procedures and processes for ensuring quality along both of these dimensions. The best ones will have very clear communications with clients and translators continuously along these dimensions that are triggered by well-established practice and experience. This ensures that all the people involved in a translation project have a clear idea of the work expectations and have an understanding of how their work will be further processed and evaluated before delivery to a final customer.

Translation Quality Assurance is the process of evaluating a translated text to ensure that it meets your company’s quality standards. If your LSP is not performing regular TQAs—and performing them correctly—it is likely that your translations will contain grammar errors, inappropriate style, and poor content messaging. The key to having an effective TQA process is that the process should be the objective.

So how do you know if the quality that you’re receiving is the quality that you should be receiving? One strategy is to request TQA reports from your translation service provider to learn about their quality assurance process and to find out how often they perform TQA assessments. LSPs that perform these assessments regularly develop a very well calibrated understanding of the quality of translation deliverable. They can quickly identify problems in the supply chain and thus maintain long-term consistency. Since there can be varied and disparate opinions on what constitutes quality it is easier to agree on what constitutes an error rather than on what constitutes “quality” in the abstract, and that an important factor in quality is the absence of errors. Thus we see that the EU MQM schema shown above and the TAUS DQF quality measurement focus very specifically on a range of different error types to establish quality scores and ratings.

Grading Translated Documents

Each translated document that is part of your TQA should be individually graded. The grade will determine whether the translation will be published, edited, or rejected entirely. It will also help your Project Manager identify the translators who have the knowledge and skills to translate your documents and those who are not qualified to do so.

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