Quality Assurance methods in translation and localization have been rapidly evolving. Ideally, every translation for public use would be the error-free product of professional human translators. But the changing landscape of language service needs has made a single standard like this not just impractical but impossible.
The Changing Landscape
Explosion of content
Global demand for interactive content, content marketing and social media have meant a huge growth in the amount of content that requires translation.
Proliferation of media and platforms
In the past, the main service provided by language service providers was text translation. Text translation is still the basis of most language services, but demand for other services has grown rapidly: Website globalization, software and app localization, video subtitling and voice-overs—these types of services are increasingly requested by clients.
At the same time, the kinds of text content that we are called upon to translate is more varied. Tweets and blog posts, software strings, content marketing, keywords, and video scripts—these types of materials have increasingly joined the more traditional marketing and technical texts.
Agile software development, daily social media updates, frequent updates to online documentation, and the generally faster pace of a digital world have forced language service providers themselves to be more agile. Many services would be useless if they couldn’t be provided very quickly.
In this environment, even the largest customers have to balance cost, turnaround, and quality for different types of content. For content that is voluminous, time sensitive, or strictly for internal use, top quality is not always a client’s first priority.
What this means for quality standards
To meet these needs, language service providers (LSPs) have begun offering different levels of service. We offer three levels: post-edited machine translation (for large volume, repetitive materials), basic quality and publication quality (for marketing and other high-value materials). LSPs are also offering more multimedia services, such as subtitling and foreign-language voice-overs, with their own quality demands.
Whatever the services and quality level requested, LSPs still have to ensure that clients get the quality that they need. In fact, maintaining consistency of vocabulary and tone across a client’s many platforms is increasingly important. It is up to your language partner to ensure that quality. In today’s environment, even very large clients don’t have the resources or the time necessary to double check the output they are getting from their language partners.
That’s why positive client feedback, although welcome, is not our only gauge of quality. We consistently strive to follow procedures and practices that maintain quality and to continually improve those processes over time.
How we do it
Our quality measures fit into two basic categories: the procedures connected with a particular project and practices that help us to proactively improve those procedures.
Project Management (Quality Control)
The first step in successfully carrying out a particular project is assigning a dedicated project manager (PM) to coordinate the entire project and all of its aspects and to act as the point of contact for the client. As often as possible, we like to assign the same PM to all of a client’s projects, so that, over time, the PM will get a better feel for that client’s particular requirements.
Next the PM conducts an assessment of the project, directing questions to the client if necessary to clarify and expand on what has been covered by the quote. The PM should understand the purpose of the project; who the audience will be; whether the project will involve specialized terminology; whether there are any style and branding guidelines, reference translations, or translation memories in existence; and last, but not least, the timeframe envisioned.
Based on the assessment, the PM assembles a team whose expertise matches the client’s needs—whether the need is for Chinese linguists with engineering expertise or French Canadian voice-over artists with an engaging style.
In certain cases, for example when the translation involves technical language, the PM will prepare a glossary of terms to be translated first. This ensures that important terms are translated consistently and accurately for the context/subject domain throughout the project.
The PM maintains regular communication with client, linguists, and other team members to respond rapidly to any questions that arise during the process.
Checks and Reviews (Quality Assurance)
For most projects involving translation, the PM will perform an initial check on the translation to find obvious errors—like missing text, inconsistencies, and proper use and formatting of units of measurement, dates and telephone numbers—and will pass the translation to a second qualified linguist for light editing and proofreading. The exception is when the client specifically requests basic quality translation, which does not include the step of review by an independent linguist.
Whether or not there is an independent proofreading, the PM will perform a final quality check of any translation for spelling errors and the like. Translation software has vastly improved our ability to screen for inconsistencies. We automate these processes wherever possible to speed up deliveries and minimize the risk of introducing unintended errors—while always making the final check a human one.
When the project involves more than translation, there are other checks involved at each stage. For example:
- A website, software localization, or e-learning project will undergo pre-live review by native linguists, who do things like checking links, testing forms, and looking for formatting problems and any text errors that might have crept in during the uploading process.
- In the case of a voice-over, the PM will check things like the timing, recording quality, and volume.
Each type of project has its own checklist that must be followed before final delivery to the client.
If the timeframe required by the client necessitates a less thorough approach to checks, this will be communicated to the client.
After delivery of the project and acceptance by the client, the last step is soliciting feedback from the client to get information to help us correct any perceived shortcomings in future projects. New or intermittent clients will generally be asked for feedback after each project while ongoing clients are contacted on a periodic basis.
Proactive steps (on-going Quality Assurance)
In addition to our project management approach, we regularly take measures to learn how to proactively improve our quality and increase our efficiency.
New linguists and other partners are continually being screened so that we are prepared for areas in which we expect increasing demand. At the same time, we also conduct ongoing assessments of linguists in our existing network to ensure that their skills and professionalism remain current.
We also create and maintain translation memories, style sheets, and glossaries by client, which helps ensure consistent use of terminology and brand names, and often decreases costs and speeds project completion over time.
At regular team meetings we share experiences and diagnose problems that have arisen. In this way, we continually learn from each other’s experiences and can work together to resolve any issues.
Each of us takes responsibility for keeping up-to-date on the latest tools and approaches in the language service industry and for sharing what they have learned with others on the team.
Maintaining strong and relevant Quality Assurance procedures is a process driven by the needs of our clients. At MTM LinguaSoft, our goal is to maintain optimal flexibility and responsiveness, while continually monitoring and perfecting our processes for quality multilingual content in the global marketplace.