This article explores the valences and relevance of Quality Assurance (QA) in translation, from theory to best practices, highlighting the tools and techniques that ensure pertinent QA across a wide spectrum of translation industry profiles, ultimately demonstrating the paramount importance of Quality Assurance, at every step of the translation process.
An intriguing definition of what represents a good translation is attributed to 20th century philosopher and aesthete, Benedetto Croce (1866–1952):
"The translation called good has original value as a work of art."
But keeping our finger on the pulse, the moment, the Translation Industry today has certainly progressed beyond the classical boundaries of perception and execution, driven by immense technological breakthroughs, and even AI.
So, why does Croce’s theory still stand in this case?
The main reason is that his definition instills a universal and essential principle behind the accurate assessment of the quality of a translation, namely, that ensuring excellence should be the objective pursued for a translation endeavor to be truly valuable, and valued.
The Skopos (Greek: σκοπός; defined as “purpose”) Approach to Translation Quality Assurance (TQA) (Reiss and Vermeer, 1984) goes hand in hand with the theory of translatorial action (Holz-Mänttäri, 1984), focusing on response-oriented, psycholinguistic and functionalistic valences that place translation quality at the forefront of the connection between textual reproduction and production, framed it in the network of:
Writer of source text – Translator – Client – Target Readership
The Skopos Approach represents the go-to method for Quality Assurance in Translation, as it interprets translation not as linguistic transference, but as a thorough application of purpose, highly complex and not only embedded in the discourse of a source text, thus enabling deep parameters of testing, Quality Assurance and Quality Control (QC).
As set out by Reiss and Vermeer (1984), the functionalistic approach to Translation Quality Assurance can be summed up in the following theoretical hypotheses:
The purpose (function) of a translation determines the strategic methods to be applied in its execution (principle of functionality).
A translation is intentional by nature, embedding an explicit or implicit purpose of effect and execution (skopos).
The translation of a given source text can be rendered in many different versions, highlighting the principle of interpretation and mirroring of the source text in a target language from a socio-cultural framework standpoint.
A translation is a representation of a source text; however, it corresponds to a disparate skopos.
Clients/translation commissioners define the expected function or purpose of a translation.
Whenever the commissioned brief is not obvious, translators interpret/deduce the purpose of the translation in their own terms (“tacit” skopos)
Quality is inherently and inextricably linked to functionality. Ideally, a good, accurate and adequate translation will respond to the communicative functions required and expected by the target audience.
A translation’s skopos (purpose) and functionality may differ from those of the source text especially in cases which lack cultural equivalence between source and target contextual frameworks.
Translation Quality Assurance (TQA) represents a comprehensive process of ensuring quality translation and localization output, involving the acquisition, training and management of qualified “humanware” (Linguistic Project Managers, Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and Linguistic Analysts) and their respective tools (hardware and software).
In order to ensure standards-compliant Translation Quality Assurance, Language Services Providers (LSPs) are required to devise and optimize long-term, comprehensive strategies for providing the relevant training and feedback to linguistic vendors involved in the processes, as well as for the internal management of translation assets such as client Translation Memories (TMs), term bases and Computer-Assisted Translation (CAT) tools.
On the other hand, Linguistic Quality Control (LQC) implies more specific, short-term procedures, which make up a solid segment of the entire Translation Quality Assurance process.
Linguistic Quality Control (LQC) entails fine-tuning the final translation product, ensuring that there are no blatant flaws and that the linguistic steps of the process (translation, editing, proofreading) have been successfully performed in terms of resolving inconsistencies, misspellings and mismatches.
TQA and LQC processes, which are intertwined, are heavily based on the foundation of Skopos, measuring the efficiency and adequacy of translation projects based on a solid QMS (Quality Management System).
According to the Project Management Institute Annual Report, Project Quality Management entails a series of processes and activities undertaken by a translation-performing organization to “determine quality policies, objectives, and responsibilities so that the project will satisfy the needs for which it was undertaken” (PMI, 2013, p. 227).
Applying this rule to Translation Project Quality Management exclusively, the QA process would imply a complex translation ecosystem coordinated by Project Managers (PMs), Linguistic Subject Matter Experts (SMEs and QA Analysts performing in-depth quality control based on parameters of translation linguistic and stylistic accuracy, project and language-specific key-metrics and UI/UX variables.
The Translation Quality Assurance process can be easily summarized in three main steps:
1. Planning Phase: Quality Management
- Involving qualified translation vendors, proofreaders and SMEs
- Ensuring quality standards are met
- Employing CAT Tools, TMs, glossaries, style guides, additional references, etc.
2. Performance Phase: Quality Assurance Performance
- Using a wide range of specialized QA tools and the QA functionality integrated in various CAT tools
- Setting-up a troubleshooting communication platform for consistency and terminology checks
3. Control Phase: Quality Control
- Proofreading, third-party review or LQA (Linguistic Quality Assurance)
- Running QA checks for spelling, segment-level consistency, numeric mismatch, terminology mismatch, missing translations, punctuation issues
QA and LQA parameters inherently depend on the specific project needs and requirements, ranging from complex terminology-endowed life sciences translations to technical Website Localization or Video Game Localization, Legal or Marketing Transcreation projects.
The specific requirements and demands of these translation projects are met through QA modules embedded in CAT tools, which cover Quality control parameters such as terminology, formatting, punctuation, missing or incomplete translations and local standards compliance.
The most popular CAT tools used in QA Verification are memoQ, SDL Trados Studio, Across, Wordfast, and others, which have integrated, configurable QA functions that prove beneficial for any translator or Quality Assurance analyst in reviewing the translation performance profile.
In very complex translation projects, where it is essential that quality requirements and standards are fully met without exceptions, standalone Quality Assurance software tools are also employed in terms of cross-checking generic and specific inconsistencies and generating reports to showcase the performance metrics of the respective translation (e.g. the most widely used tools are Verifika, Xbench, QA Distiller, Linguistic Toolbox).
Just like any supplier of services or goods curated for specific business consumption or use, Translation companies and inherently, translation vendors and analysists are ethically and legally bound to deliver high quality translations, thus contributing to the development of the language industry beyond the local scope - globally.
Translation Quality Assurance is also the manner in which an LSP can achieve compliance with the stringent requirements of the translation-industry-specific ISO certificate, ensuring a game-changing performance for the translation industry framework.
A sought-after certificate for Translation Quality Assurance is the ISO 17100, implying stringent requirements of documented professional and educational qualifications and proven competencies for the experts involved in top-class translation work (from language vendors to QA Analysis and SMEs).
From a client perspective, ISO compliance in terms of superior Quality Assurance processes and execution guarantees a top-quality business card, and a solid recommendation of the Translators, Editors, linguistic analysts and Project Managers engaged in LSP translation projects.
The three main elements that round-up the underlining ISO Quality Assurance quality criteria are inextricably linked to the following:
Involvement of bilingual SMEs in any translation endeavor.
Cross-check and revision performed by a second SME with proven bilingual knowledge applicable to the specific field of the translation project.
An optional step is third-party proofreading and fine-tuning by a native editor in the target language who exhibits a substantial grasp of the cultural background and regulation framework of the targeted language.
Translation Quality Assurance is a hot topic. The ever-growing interest in safeguarding the level and values of quality is gaining momentum in the current, increasingly fragmented translation landscape and the generic approaches to translation quality demand superior benchmarks aligned to communicative conditions and competence requirements, for achieving and evaluating the adequacy of translation products across any industry, topic and level of difficulty.
An optimal implementation of Translation Quality Assurance models that suit the targeted translation services and industries is of paramount importance in outlining the focus of the Translation Quality Assurance, whether we are talking about translation as a product, as a service, or as an elaborate process for all stakeholders involved.
AD VERBUM takes pride in ticking all of the above-mentioned criteria boxes through a well-established internal Translation Quality Assurance process, ISO-optimized and streamlined to cater to a wide spectrum of needs and stringent requirements. By tailoring efforts to the specific needs of every single customer and following up on our performance, we ensure that the services provided are of consistently high quality and enhance the experience for our customers.
At the end of the day, the process of measuring and assessing Translation Quality does not start when the translation is finished. But when it has merely begun.
Holz-Mänttäri, Justa. (1984). Translatorisches Handeln: Theorie und Methode. [Translational actions: Theories and methods]. Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia [Helsinki: Finland Science Academy].
House, J. (1977). A Model for Translation Quality Assessment (2nd edition). Tûbingen: Narr.
Project Management Institute. (2013). A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOKRGuide) (Fifth Edition). PA: Project Management Institute, Inc.
Vermeer, H. J. (1978). Ein Rahmen für eine allgemeine Translationstheorie. Lebende Sprachen, 23(1), 99-102.
Williams, M. (2004). Translation Quality Assessment: An Argumentation-Centered Approach. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press.
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