Nowadays, most people prefer to read, write and shop for goods and services in their own languages. This is the reason why companies that operate globally need to localize their messages for their target audiences. Even for the most experienced company, localization can be a challenging task, and a poorly translated message can have a negative impact on the acceptance of a product or become an embarrassment to even the most well-known brand. In the effort to go global, companies are at risk of damaging their reputation if their content is poorly localized.

The truth is that even the best translators can sometimes make mistakes, as that is a risk with any human-driven process. The important thing is to discover mistakes and correct them before the translation is delivered to the client. Fortunately, like in other industries, translation relies on a set of techniques and processes that help to mitigate potential errors and guarantee customers are satisfied with the translation they receive. This is what we call translation quality assurance.

What is translation quality assurance?

Quality Assurance, better known as QA in most industries, is essentially a review process. In translation, quality assurance checks for errors in a translation document.

The first stage is automatic quality checks, which runs with the help of computer-assisted translation technology. This helps detect the kind of mistakes that are invisible to the human eye, such as double spaces, incorrect capitalization or problems with punctuation. It even goes beyond that, as software has become more intelligent and is now also able to identify issues relating to inconsistent translations, forbidden terminology and even number and format inconsistencies between the source and target text.

However, even if translation technology has evolved exponentially in recent years, machines still cannot detect other types of language issues related to tone, style or register. This is the second stage of quality assurance, and for this purpose, language service providers work closely with reviewers and proofreaders to make sure the translation reads as a smooth and fluid text.

Tracking and Handling Errors

Identifying errors is just the first step in quality assurance. Because translation projects can involve large teams of collaborators, most language service providers track issues using translation management systems rather than emails. Translators see pending issues that need to be handled and delivered in the system.

Once all issues have been collected, it is time to fix them. Some require just an easy fix, such as deleting a double space or adding a missing punctuation mark. Other mistakes, such as failing to interpret the intent behind a message, or not having paid attention to the style or tone of the source, could potentially require more effort from the translator.

Regardless of the nature of the error, project managers need to guarantee that every single issue has been handled and corrected before delivering the project to the customer.

Using Style Guides to Review Translations

To review translations consistently, many language service providers rely on Style Guides, which help control language use by specifying elements such as the desired tone, formats used for numbers, units and dates, styling for headings, subheadings, etc.

Many institutions, organizations or even governments have their own style guides. For instance, the European Commission Style Guide exists for authors and translators working with them, and states that the variety of English on which the Guide bases its instructions and advice is that of standard usage of Britain and Ireland.

Making Quality Assurance Efficient and Reliable

As we have seen, translation quality assurance relies on a combination between technology and people to produce the most efficient workflow. However, for a language services provider, maintaining quality is always a challenge, especially if you want to deliver cost-effective solutions and respond to client requirements fast.

Each translation project is different and new projects may present a daunting challenge initially, especially if the client does not have a glossary of terms or a translation memory. Our approach at On Global is to think carefully about every aspect of the workflow required before launching the project, as that way we can subdivide the work into manageable stages. As a result, assignments can be delegated to the right people and managed using the appropriate technology.

To succeed, it is important to carefully consider what your client wants and needs (bear in mind that sometimes what the client needs is not necessarily what they want). Translation quality assurance should be about detailed processes and technology, but you should also factor each client’s perception of quality into the equation.