Translation Services Quality Assurance

As is the case with any professional production process, one of the key components of any successful professional translation service is an accurate and consistent translation Quality Assurance (QA) process.

This may seem like a quite straightforward issue, but it is not. It is important to keep in mind that we are dealing with languages, and languages are not an exact science, they are subjective.

I am a firm believer in the principle that anything that can be measured can be improved. The question is: How can we measure the quality of language translations? We know that from a language translation quality point of view, at the end of the translation process it is not enough to have generated a piece in the target language equivalent in word count to the piece in the source language.

The aim with document translation Quality Assurance should be to provide a measure as objective as possible of the quality of the translated material, according to some predefined criteria.

For example, if the client provided a specific style guide and a list of terminology or glossary to be used, language translation Quality Assurance should measure adherence to that reference material. It goes without saying that it should also account for adherence to language-specific grammatical, semantic, stylistic and usage rules.

Any correction that is not strictly a linguistic error or does not contradict the reference material provided by the client is not an error but a preference (such as choice of words) and should be treated as such for language translation Quality Assurance purposes.

I am in favor of using a very simple Pass/No Pass (or Pass with Errors) rating system for the language translation Quality Assurance process, with reviews of 100% of the translated material if dealing with smaller professional translation projects or a sampling system, when dealing with professional translations projects with larger word counts.

When dealing with a sampling system for the language translation Quality Assurance process, as a general rule, the material translated by more experienced certified professional translators, or certified professional translators who consistently get higher QA scores, should require smaller samples than the material from less experienced certified professional translators or certified professional translators with lower QA scores.

Pass simply means that there are no translation or language errors as per the specified criteria and that the professionally translated material is ready for delivery to the client.

No Pass (or Pass with Errors) means that there are translation or language errors that have to be addressed before the material can be considered ready for delivery.

Simply correcting the translation and/or language errors in the translated material is not enough. The aim should be to act proactively and prevent them from happening again. Every recurring error should be documented in the document translation services internal style guide for the language (or project) in question.

In general, professional translations projects with larger word counts or from recurring translation projects or clients require project specific internal style guides and/or glossaries.

Professional document translation services providers such as Legal Translation Solutions and its parent company, ASTA-USA Translation Services, Inc., understand that it is impossible to systematically deliver professional translation services without such translation language Quality Assurance processes in place.