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By Sonia Monahan
Cost, time and quality should be balanced when structuring translation programs and, more specifically, translation project processes. We consistently hear that quality needs to take a back seat to cost and time, especially in the current economic climate. It is more important than ever to get products to market in a timely and cost-effective manner.
Common perceptions about quality are that it is expensive and that to increase quality, you need to add to the project process steps. The traditional approach has been to add process steps and quality checks to improve delivered quality. The value of these additional quality steps is questionable. Comparisons of edited and proofed files against original translations show that in some cases, editors and proofers detract from the quality as much as they improve it. Translation errors and deviations from client-specific guidelines can be found even through final quality assurance (QA) steps. In traditional processes, none of these numerous steps captures the translation quality level prior to delivery to the client.
In reality, a focus on measured quality can dramatically reduce cost and turnaround time. The methodology presented here demonstrates how a paradigm shift can change the way localization projects are managed.
Why measured quality?
Measured quality as a tool can be used to increase quality and drive efficiency improvements. The challenge is to measure in the most objective manner possible, though translation quality will always retain a subjective aspect. There have been numerous attempts to create metrics to capture translation quality, ranging from LISA QA to SAE J2450 and more. Some companies have also created their own metrics. What is apparent from these efforts is that there is no one right way to measure translation quality, but that these measurements need to be customized to best match the individual language service provider (LSP) and client requirements for quality.
Measured translation quality on its own has limited benefits. Though it is helpful to have an objective assessment of the linguistic quality levels, it can only have wide-scale benefits when integrated into a robust quality system. As an example, linguistic evaluations are only as accurate as the instructions provided to both the linguists and the evaluators. In the absence of an approved terminology glossary, the original translators and evaluators may have differing opinions on what “correct” translations of key terminology are. The evaluation is only of limited benefit in this case, as this adds a subjective element to the measurement process.