How is Quality Assessed and Assured in the Translation Industry?
Translations require accuracy, attention to detail and consistency. Even one poorly translated word can alter the entire meaning of documents. Accuracy matters in many aspects of business, but it is even more critical for industries that directly impact people’s lives, such as medical, pharmaceutical, legal, and finance.
Translation service providers may promise to deliver flawless translations, but how is this guaranteed?
Hiring the Right People
Assuring quality translations starts with hiring the right people. Reputable translation service providers will employ or outsource work to selected professionals with superior language skills, technical expertise and mastery of their subject areas.
To people outside the translation industry, being bilingual or having a good working knowledge of a foreign language may seem a good starting point for being a translator. But in-depth knowledge of another language is not enough. A good translator is someone with perfect language skills, knowledge of the field of translation is an excellent researcher and is dedicated to continuous learning.
During recruitment, qualified translators are put through a series of tests that evaluate their language proficiency, industry knowledge and specific subject matter expertise. Recruitment has to be stringent because translations need to be outstanding. Sufficient is nowhere near good enough in the translation industry.
What is Quality?
There is a large number of translation companies and freelance translators, and most of them will talk about offering “quality” or “high-quality” work. Unfortunately, there is no universal definition as to what regards a quality translation. It is highly subjective.
At the very least, translated work has to meet a clients’ expectations, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is of high quality. For example, a company may require a one-page document to be converted into another language, a task that can easily be performed by a machine. It may deliver a result that the company is happy with, but you can’t really say it’s a quality translation.
Delivering quality translated material has many strands which include but is not limited to:
- Effectively communicating the original meaning of the source language to the target audience.
- Ensuring there are no spelling or grammatical errors, and rules for line breaks, alignment and capitalization are adhered to.
- Ensuring the use of proper conventions for dates, addresses and measurements.
- Reflecting the style of the source material.
- Providing well-written readable sentences.
- Meeting all of the client specifications.
- Taking all cultural factors into consideration.
Since quality is such an ambiguous term, international standards have been developed for language service providers. In 2006, the European Committee for Standardisation introduced EN 15038, a quality standard developed especially for translation services providers. These requirements were transferred to the ISO (the International Organisation for Standardisation) framework in 2015.
When translation companies apply for ISO 17100 certification, they have to undergo an audit. This is to ensure the service provider meets the required standards. It entails checking records and client jobs as well as interviews with relevant staff.
To be considered for the ISO 17100 certification, translation providers have to meet strict requirements, such as:
1) The translation process has to adhere to a set of minimum standards as laid out by the ISO.
2) Translators, proofreaders and revisers must provide documented proof of qualifications in the subject area of the work they will be translating.
3) Translation providers must have a compulsory revision process.
4) There has to be a process for handling client feedback.
5) Data protection requirements must be met because translators sometimes handle confidential and sensitive information.
ISO standards mean you can have high trust in the translation process. They tell you that an independent auditor has certified that a provider’s translations have been translated, reviewed and checked by subject experts. It is valuable third-party verification.
As a leader in the language solutions industry, GTS also adheres to ISO 9001. This global standardisation of more than 170 member countries ensures customers receive continuous good-quality products and services.
Although the standard is not specific to the translation industry, it demonstrates and monitors planning, operation and control of a company’s processes as well as the continual improvement of its Quality Management Systems. This international standard was created for businesses to meet customer needs, deliver on their promises and continually improve the overall quality of products and services.
Quality Assurance Process
Like manufacturing, translation is a multi-stage process where quality is assessed at each and every stage. A translated document cannot proceed further down the line until it has successfully passed each stage. These steps are necessary to spot and rectify errors.
To deliver a quality product, most translation projects will go through the following process:
Step 1: A translator will be assigned to the project, someone who is a native speaker of the target language and with experience/expertise in the subject matter. If the project is a large scale, multiple translators may be assigned to the task.
Step 2: Language translation by the assigned translator who will check their own work for accuracy. The goal is not to provide a word for word literal translation but to create a piece of work that reads as though it were originally written in the target language.
Step 3: The work is then handed to a revisor or editor who compares the source and target text checking for inaccuracies, common grammatical errors and other mistakes. This is a painstaking line by line process that also ensures the meaning of the source text comes across in the converted text.
Step 4: However, it’s not over yet as another pair of eyes gets involved. A proofreader will check the document to catch typos or any other errors that may have crept in.
Step 5: The final check before the finished document is sent to the client for review and approval.
Robust Quality Assurance
Only through a strict process of cross-checking translations and adhering to international standards can translators do their very best work and quality be truly assured.