An Introduction to Translation Quality Assurance

by Giannis Nistas, Linguist at Commit

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.

Project Management: Our experience – our treasure

by Dina Kessaniotou, Project Coordinator at Commit

Far from trying to create a step by step guide to project management, with this article I want to give you some valuable insight, gained over my 20 years of PM experience. Even if the topics I am touching are relatively common, my perspective on some details could probably make a difference in the knowledge you have already acquired.

Let’s start with an important part of a project manager’s mission, budget management. When a new project arrives, it is really important that you set a comprehensive plan of the budget. Write down all possible costs and anticipate hidden costs. Don’t try to make approximate estimations as they can lead to unexpected deviations. Keep track of the budget whenever additional costs arise, even if they seem to be too tiny. We tend to get excited with big volumes, but sometimes there is more than meets the eye. The good news is the available project management tools provide powerful features for financial analysis. Your feedback at the end of a big project will help your company understand if a specific account is really profitable or even viable. But the reason I insist on the financial part is not just money. In the long term, you should ideally work in projects that meet your company’s expectations, not only in terms of profit but also in terms of development. It is one of your main duties to evaluate the profitability and real value of each client as to where your company would like to go in the future. Your useful insight on this will help your company understand which accounts are really aligned with their goals.

Just to avoid misunderstandings at this point: I don’t mean it is not worth working for smaller clients/projects. On the contrary, you should treat all clients equally. After all, you never know, the “smallest” client may one day evolve into the biggest opportunity. What I want to stress here is the importance of value for money and development.

Now let’s take a look on things we can easily do better for our clients

How would you define responsiveness?

You have surely read articles titled “Responsiveness is the key to success” or “Ten Ways to Respond Quickly” etc. However, would it just be enough to reply quickly to client requests in a fast-paced globalization world without borders? What about your faraway clients? How would you eliminate the time difference? It may seem challenging to set up teams to cover all time zones. However, it seems that in most cases the client is already happy if you get back to them within their same working day so they won’t have to wait for the next day to confirm the request. In most cases, you can manage to eliminate any geographical obstacles even if you don’t intend to provide linguistic support beyond your working hours.

What about quality?

Normally, this is something that should never be questioned. Our commitment should always be to provide top quality, regardless of profitability, time pressure or any other “pitfalls” that may arise. I am just touching this topic because sometimes clients disregard quality for a lower cost. It is up to you to help them realize that in the long term, such practices can cost them much more. Your excellent communication skills, holistic knowledge and vast experience will play their part here. As the manager of a specific project, you are responsible for the final outcome and you should never accept to compromise its quality. Apart from the fact that this is a matter of principle, don’t forget that one and only… unfortunate situation can considerably affect your team’s reputation – and it is among your basic responsibilities to protect the team’s reputation and image. On the other hand, quality is one of the keystones that build the loyalty of our clients, and this is also a step towards…

Reliability

Being reliable means much more than delivering high quality. It means that you deliver on time, that you are consistent in your processes and keep your promises, that you don’t seek to change your quote in the middle of the project. In short, reliability means that your clients assign their localization projects to you and are confident that you won’t disappoint them. A precious advice I remember from my first steps: don’t make your client worry and feel the need to check for the status of their project. And this brings us to…

Communication

The whole business management process is based on your good communication skills and on how effectively you interact with all stakeholders. I don’t have much to add here, however, I have this one valuable piece of advice: get used to interacting with people from different countries and cultures , people that might be less fluent in English than you are – remember, English may not even be a prerequisite in their field of activity! Try to be patient and put yourself into their shoes.

What if you want to go a step further? 

Localization follows the rapid evolution of technology, which also affects the client-side evolution. Companies change the products and services they offer, the way they promote them and much more. The evolution in their translation/localization needs is inevitable. If you want to stay up to date, never stop searching and evaluating new specialized resources, when time permits. Work closely with the HR team of your agency, let them know about your current and potential needs and expand your teams. With a vast pool of valuable resources, you will never lose business just because you don’t have the right people to do the job.

Now, do you think you have too many things to care about? Well, you will have even more, as the nature of your job is, most of all, multitasking! What you don’t know yet if you are new to the industry, is that your life at work will never be boring!

This article was part of the 2nd edition of “The Elia Handbook for Smart PMs” published by the European Language Industry Association.