This post is intended to act as a guide for freelance translators and language service providers who wish to gain a better understanding of quality standards in the translation market.
Quality. We hear that word a lot in the translation industry. It’s a hot topic at networking events and a key phrase on translation forums. Everyone claims to have it, and everyone wants to buy it. But what defines a quality translation?
At the basic level, a quality translation…
- meets the client’s requirements
- preserves the original content
- effectively conveys the original meaning to the target audience
But wait, there’s more! Quality standards can change depending on certain client requirements, resources available, and specialised fields (medical, technical, legal, or marketing). With this in mind, let’s look at the 7 steps every translator should take to ensure quality.
Request the following in cooperating with the client
- A detailed list of project requirements including word count, language combination, source and target file type, CAT tool preference, and relevant terminology
- A clear deadline
- An accessible mode of contact and a rapid response rate
- Flexibility, should any issues occur during the translation process
Determine if you have the skills and resources necessary to deliver a quality translation.
- Consider your background; does this project fall within your specialisation?
- Are you experienced in using the client’s preferred CAT tool?
- If this is a large project with a tight deadline, can you divide the work among your team members or outsourced translators?
Become fully acquainted with the project
- Understand the product, service, or overall message
- Note the intended audience; formal or informal, public or internal, and potential cultural influences on language
- If you have questions about the content or context of the document, contact the client for clarification
Plan your translation method based on the field of the translation: e.g. medical, technical, legal, or marketing.
This step is important, as each field has a different standard for quality. Refer to the descriptions below for a basic understanding of quality standards in each field.
- Medical: All original content is preserved post translation. Prescription instructions are readable; numbers, dosage measurements and abbreviations are appropriate for target language. Date and time formatting is correctly appropriate for the target language. Medication names are correct in the target language; most medications have different names in different languages. Refer to the client’s glossary for terminology, medication names and abbreviation instructions.
- Technical: Terms and device names are consistent. Character limit is maintained, or language expansion has been approved by client. Idioms and cultural references have not been used. Language is clear and concise.
- Legal: Translator is aware of the legal codes and country laws relevant to the project. Terminology, codes, law names and abbreviations are consistent. Confidential information is redacted. The translator has used an appropriate tone of voice for legal documents in the target language (active or passive).
- Marketing: Translation is not a literal translation of the source content. Cultural influence on the target language including idioms, popular expressions, and marketing buzzwords has been taken into consideration. Translation is concise, readable and attention-grabbing.
Create a detailed, client-specific termbase/glossary
Using a client-specific termbase will boost productivity and ensure terminology consistency throughout the translation process. Moreover, you can continue to add to it and use it for future projects from the client. Termbases should include definitions, explanations and sample sentences of the following:
- Brand names, slogans
- Industry-specific jargon
- Culturally-specific references or idioms
- Spelling of brand names, commonly misspelled words, client/industry-specific words
- Client preferences for punctuation or voice/tone of document
Run a quality assurance (QA) check for errors, duplicates, and missing content
Use a QA tool such as SDL Studio Trados, MemoQ, Verifika, and Xbench to save time and ensure that all errors have been corrected. These programmes can also provide proof of having performed the check, which is often requested by clients.
A good QA tool will compare your translation with the source document to check for the following:
- Inconsistent translations
- Repeated words and double spaces
- Incorrect use of quotation and other punctuation marks, capitalisation
- Terminology from your termbase
Keep communication channels open with your client.
The final step to delivering a quality translation is to stay in communication with your client.
- Before delivery, run through the client’s instructions one last time. Contact the client for final questions and double-check QA requirements.
- Upon delivery, attach any notes you may wish regarding your translation. The client will be glad to send clearly-written questions and notes to the source writers to check for errors. This will also reflect your dedication to accuracy and personal investment in the success of the project.
- Lastly, show appreciation for being trusted with the project and a desire to work with the client again in the future. Translators who have close relationships with their clients are consistently more able to produce quality translations.
The meaning of quality in translation has long been the subject of great debate in the translation community and, as a result, it can be quite a challenge to define it. Following these seven steps can go a long way to ensuring that your translations will be consistently accurate and effective. Now, next time a client requests proof of quality in your work, you’ll have the answer!