Sunday, October 25, 2020

QA known – The why and how of polishing translations



The large majority of professionals share a similar basis of knowledge, granted with individual style differences. They know how to produce the basic product or service, whether that is a chair or a translation. The devil is in the details. Customers expect a polished product or service, one free of errors and blemishes. This requirement separates the wheat from the chaff, distinguishing those whose work leads to long term satisfied customers and those who struggle to maintain a clientele. Using an example from a production line, no manufacturing process reaches 100% perfection. Thus, it is clear that no reputable enterprise passes on its products to others without a thorough quality assurance (QA) process.

Translation also requires QA. To explain, translators produce a first draft aimed at transmitting the content, tone, subtext messages and structure of the original text to another language. If successful, the result is faithful copy of the source text. However, the first draft is often neither faultless no seamless. It may suffer from incorrect word choices, grammar and spelling errors, inconsistency in terminology uses, punctuation misuse and missing or duplicate words. Even if technically correct, the first draft may use syntax patterns from the original document that are not acceptable in the target language, such as the use of active/passive and the placement of adjectives and direct and indirect objects. The longer the documents, the greater the probability of the occurrence of these mistakes. In fact, a first draft is not an acceptable final product in most cases regardless of the knowledge and skill of the translator.

The key for a proper translation is the QA. The first and easiest step involves software applications. The most obvious one is spell check, F7 in Microsoft products. This function will identify most spelling errors and duplications as well as many grammar and punctuation errors. Of course, there will be false positives and missed errors, especially when the word in error exists. Still, as a first step, spell check identifies the vast majority of the gross errors. An additional step is running a QA function. Most of the CAT (Computer Aided Translation) tools includes this function with others, such as Xbench, available for download. The purpose of these tools is to identify inconsistent translations, missing or incorrectly placed tags, which signal font aspects, missing or additional parentheses and mismatched punctuation. These programs help identify serious issues in the translation. Thus, spell check and a QA function are key elements of the mechanical QA process.

However, in order to create a seamless translation, as in all forms of writing, the translation must be reread, often many times. Theoretically, the best method is to have another pair of eyes read the translation, as is required by ISO standards for translation agencies. In practice, the effective use of an outside reader requires money, time and a trusting relationship between the translator and editor, a rare combination. Instead, in the vast majority of cases, translators must reread their own document and strive to identify errors and text to improve. One technique is a focused reading of the translation that checks a limited variety of issues while ignoring others. This approach is especially useful in documents with numbers, names and complex structure but requires a great investment of time as the document must be read multiple times, each one with a different focus. Another option is to print the document and read the black and white copy, which tends to make certain issues much more visible. My favorite technique, especially for longer documents, is to read the document backwards, paragraph by paragraph, which not only creates a “new” document in the mind but also forces the reader to check each paragraph separately without connection to the previous one. Some translators read the text out loud or use the available software to have it read out loud, allowing them to identify clunky language that needs to be recrafted. It is vital to pay attention to any “red light” that pops into mind and thoroughly examine the issue. A combination of any of these techniques usually produces a polished translation.

Of course, QA requires time. While the 80/20 rule does not apply in translation, review and polishing a translation can easily reach 50% of the total time investment. The rule of thumb is that the longer the document, the more time quality assurance takes. That is the reason why larger translation projects should cost more, not less. Furthermore, the longer the document, the more breaks are required for QA as it is impossible to attentively read through 10,000 pages without many breaks. Thus, translators need to allow for QA time in both scheduling and setting rates. As a result, except for very short documents, same day delivery is a recipe for disaster in translation. Curiously enough, most deadlines easily suffer a delivery delay to the next morning or end of day. In order to provide a proper product, translators must insist on reasonable deadlines.

All products, including translation, require proper QA processes. Whether done by software or human, these processes are not a waste of time but instead are integral to the production process. For translators, like many other professionals, the reward for this insistence on QA is satisfied customers and shining above the rest. Not only is the devil in the details, they are also the key to success.

*Captions help the sight impared access information. 

Picture: Pixaby: Image by <a href=";utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=161049">OpenClipart-Vectors</a> from <a href=";utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=161049">Pixabay</a>

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