Translation Quality

For translation quality, the focus must shift from a control of quality (checking for actual mistakes) only; to instead, a continuous ongoing quality improvement. That is accomplished by concentrating on producing a better translation from the very start.

To relate once again to our analogy. Would you prefer driving a car off the lot to then have to return only a week later because of a manufacturer’s defect? Or, would you like owning a good and suitable car from the very moment you purchase it?

There are a number of appropriate ways to ensure a proper translation from the onset, but it requires efforts from all parties involved. This cannot be stressed enough, it requires complete collaboration between the client and the provider.

It is essential that both the client, client SME and the service provider communicate clearly and engage with each other proactively and upfront of any translation project beginning.

In that effort, let us look at the steps needed to produce quality:

1. Project Evaluation & Review

When engaging with inWhatLanguage, you will be assigned two points of contact. The account manager (AM) will ensure that a proper relationship and partnership is established. A project manager (PM) is further for additional technical expertise. The PM completes an evaluation and review of the overall scope of the project with primary areas: inventory of files (content, types…), verifies volumes, glossaries, style guides, TM, tasks at hand, client review and ultimately deliverables. It also at this point that the dedicated

PM will further identify any typos, inconsistencies, missing text, etc. in the source content, any other area requiring client clarification, and reviews these concerns with the client.

Another central task in this phase contributing to overall quality is to establish a checklist of criteria that must be verified before delivering deliverables (file name convention, directory structure, footers/headers, font and type, etc.). As appropriate all these findings and other project requirements are documented and signed off by all parties.

translation quality

2. Glossary & Style Guide Development

We highly recommend a glossary be developed that a linguist can reference when working with your materials. Such a glossary is meant to capture key terminology that is very representative of the content. Vocabulary that is at the core of the content and repeated throughout the source. The glossary is to furthermore capture terms with varying meanings and define in which situation these are to be used. It also needs to contain terms (products, trademarks, registered brands…) that should not be translated but rather

 kept in English. Working with the client, the PM will also further identify any text that should remain in the source language and produce a list for the linguist and the client reviewer. The glossary is a key item in ensuring the consistency and is an ongoing process that iWL and the linguists continually update over time. The style guide is a further complement to quality by establishing the brand messaging, the tone and style of the translation at hand, and conventions a linguist must follow. Among the main topics to include are: synopsis of the client, their translation history and ongoing global strategy, reference materials, samples of approved translation, samples of inappropriate translation, geopolitical concerns, grammar, syntax and punctuation conventions, localization and adaptation guidelines, patterns, etc.

The ultimate purpose for the glossary and style guide is to provide measurable and quantifiable criteria by which to ensure consistency and produce the highest levels of quality.

3. Reference Materials & Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)

Reference materials are essential to a linguist. It can be made up of previously completed translations that meet client quality standards. They can also be target materials (not necessarily produced by the client) that a linguist is asked to emulate. This target content can also be from key industry organization, forums, blogs or other media. 

The primary purpose of this content is to offer a linguist insights and perspective into the client direction (messaging, intent, meaning, etc.) regarding translation.

It is important to note when dealing with software, that a linguist works entirely with no contextual reference at all. Software is almost always featuring fragmented (or partial) sentences or concatenated fields that lack regular sentence syntax format. The recommended reference material in the case of software is having access to the source site, tool or other platform on which the software operates and interacts with the user. It is also crucial after translation to further perform a validation and testing of the content once the target language software is compiled and built.

It is highly recommended for a client to assign from the start SMEs (subject matter experts) who will collaborate on the project. It is important for them to communicate their criteria of acceptance on quality, any instructions and other perspectives a linguist can learn from and follow.

Lastly, but not least, is receiving from a client any and all previous Translation Memory (TM) to assist the linguist in maintaining tone and consistency.

4. TEP – Translation – Editing – Proofreading

Because language translation is a human endeavor, we must remain realistic about the fact that errors or stylistic differences will occur, regardless of how qualified a translator may be. At iWL, we are observing the TEP process for one and the same linguist.

A linguist assigned to a project is to follow this process on the work they accept. The linguist first performs a translation per defined scope of work, TM, glossary, style guide, reference materials and other instructions provided. The linguist is to further research as needed specifics regarding the subject matter, observe the latest linguistic trends, observe the right tone, form of address, apply localization requirements, and so forth.

Following the translation, the linguist is to perform an edit of their work. This step consists of further verifications, consistency in the branding/messaging, correct use of terminology, proper syntax, appropriate grammar, etc. It is important to indicate that the dedicate linguist becomes very immersed in the content that taking a step back and objectively looking at his or her work may be challenging. Also, a greater familiarity with the material will cause the brain to look over and anticipate certain details, especially spelling.

It is therefore very critical for the translation to “rest” and to allow the linguist to completely remove himself from the work. Letting things sit overnight and return with a refreshed perspective the next day is ideal. This may have an impact on turnaround times.

The proofreading step is to look at the target translation and ignoring the source. The purpose of this is for the linguist to focus on the fluidity of the translation, to make it sound as natural as possible, then review with a grammar and spell check.

iWL holds its linguist to perform at a quality rating of 99.8%, as free of hard errors as is humanly possible. Hard errors are defined as issues pertaining to meaning, spelling, grammar, omissions and additions. Critical to this success metric is the client’s participation and ownership in the steps already outlined above.

There are subjective or preferential edits to contend with from SMEs. It is very common for the translation to still undergo 15-20% change based on SME feedback and edits. These comments rank as preferences or opinions that the SME is putting forth.

5. TEP +1 – Review

This is a must for all technical projects with a greater degree of complexity:

​•Aimed at a more educated audience; more intricate syntax and grammar usage

​•Typically longer documents

•Requiring more experienced linguists: more education, better experience and stronger subject matter expert.

•Subject matters such as: Medical/pharmaceutical, applied sciences, legal/contract, (idiomatic) marketing, engineering, aviation/aeronautics…

The translation process mirrors TEP with the addition of an additional resource to the project, a linguist who functions as an editor and who has not previously worked on the materials. This linguist has the responsibility to further increase the localized adaptation and consistency. The editor is to use all available items and thoroughly control that all references, instructions and guidelines were used in the translation.

Translation Quality

The translation process.

The reviewer will perform additional in-depth verifications to focus on word choice, tone and audience messaging. TEP + 1 turnaround times are extended beyond the standard TEP timelines.

SME preferences and edits remain an integral component of the overall quality of the translation.

6. SME Reconciliation

A SME who is by definition an expert in the field of the subject and a linguist who is the expert in language… together equal further quality. All proposed SME edits are subject to be ratified by the linguist. The original translator will use his/her discretion to accept or reject the suggested changes. The language resource will further document as needed the changes, update the glossary and style guide amended. The linguist also learns more intricately the SME norms and deploys these across further translation work.

7. Deliverables

Depending on the project scope a number of other tasks will take place once the translation is signed off and accepted. Tasks such as formatting, voiceover recordings, subtitling, file engineering, etc.

Once those types of tasks are completed, additional checks contribute to the overall quality outcome of a project. iWL as a standard will follow the original material and match the target output to it. Normally the same application used to author the source content is employed to produce the foreign language version. This is where the aforementioned checklists form the basis of control.

Your project manager will gather all the final compiled items and verify they meet the appropriate expectations.

​Also read, How To Measure & Ensure Translation Quality – Part 1: Translation Fallacies.

Written By Maurice Van Zutphen, COO

Maurice is a veteran in the translation industry with nearly 25 years helping organizations with their high quality translations. Maurice is an expert in e-learning solutions and very technical translation projects. Having managed and overseen literally thousands of translations at the highest levels, (including highly confidential projects for the White House), there is no one better to look over your translation projects and manage the operations. And in case you are wondering we call Maurice “the flying Dutchman.”