Good, bad or ugly? How to deal with translation quality subjectivity

thumbs upYou’re getting ready to launch a new fifty-thousand-word user manual for your global audience, but before you get ahead of yourself, you may want to do your research on translation quality. You shouldn’t feel like you’re rolling the dice, or be stuck wondering if your company’s hard-earned cash is getting you the highest translation quality.

First things first: You’ll want to be able to define and understand what a “good translation” means before you even think about diving in. Measuring translation quality is typically very subjective so the question of how to judge quality can be hard to answer.

Here are a few tips to ensure the subjectivity quotient is as little of a concern as possible.

Standardize all of your content authors’writing

You need quality at the source. Seems simple enough, right? But what many companies fail to realize is that tightening up your source content before providing it to us not only reduces the risk of translation quality issues; it also means you’re less likely to see errors later in the process. If you’re authoring content consistently and the source text is optimized for translation, a competent linguist should be able to handle any type of material—and subjectivity won’t be as much of a concern.

Insist on measurable quality standards for your translations

Expressions like “quality is a given” or “quality is our recipe” are empty words—unless they’re backed up by proof. And by proof, we mean quantifiable metrics. Metrics provide a way to objectively quantify the translation quality throughout the process. Be sure to ask your Indopak project manager to provide regular reports and business intelligence on your translations on an ongoing basis. Metrics that can be pointed to and nailed down are tough to argue with or disagree about.

Aim for having a regular set of high-performing linguists

Since every linguist working on your translation projects might have differing opinions on how to translate your content—just as each person is unique—each translation is going to be slightly different. However, we can offer you metrics on the translation quality management process so you know you have a consistently used group of the best linguists in your industry. We can provide data and support around how we chose your language experts for each project. As an added benefit to you, Indopak regularly scores linguists and holds our work quality to a higher standard compared to the industry norm.

Incorporate glossaries and style guides into your translations

Company style guides and glossaries are important tools that help guide the linguists assigned to translate your content. Making these tools available upfront will ensure localization projects go smoothly by avoiding possible errors. Not only is it a benefit to you, but it also arms your linguists with the right tools to fast-track the overall process and reduce subjectivity.

If you’re worried about spending too much time creating these tools, we’ve got you covered. As your language service provider we can take the wheel and drive the creation of your style guides and glossaries.

Train your in-country approvers on what they should look for when reviewing content

Arguably the most important factor when dealing with in-country approvers is defining what constitutes quality and ensuring everyone is on the same page. Ask yourself, is the in-country approver’s judgment a reliable measurement? They should have sufficient competence in the source and target languages and consistency in assessing quality. It should not come down to good or bad quality, as that should have already been caught early on in the process.

At this stage in the game, your in-country approvers should be doing a superficial review only to apply style or expert opinions an outside person wouldn’t know. The main purpose of your in-country approver should be to check the technical accuracy of the content, ensuring appropriate use of terms for branding or products, along with any other glaring issues. They should be held accountable to the same stylistic preferences that were established by the original creator of the content in the source language to avoid subjective reasoning such as not liking the way something is stated or tone of the content.

Feedback from your in-country approver is extremely important. It should be specific and communicated back to us so we can alter the process or educate the linguist as needed so the issue doesn’t happen again.

In some cases, involving a third-party reviewer—an independent individual who will judge the translated piece on its own merit—as an extra stage in the translate-edit-proof process might be considered. An opinion from someone removed from bias can be very helpful.

Always ask for a translation memory file

A translation memory file is a record of previously approved translated phrases that can be applied to future projects. An established translation memory integrates quality into the process, because it can avoid errors and reduce translation quality subjectivity by applying consistent phrasing across projects when relevant.

Fact is, there is always an element of subjectivity where translation quality is concerned. But you can certainly take measures to cut down on it. A firm translation process grounded in measurement can go a long way toward ensuring reliable, agreed-upon translation quality standards. Working with a trusted language service provider who meets and exceeds translation quality standards will ensure better results and strengthen the quality of translations and reduce the subjectivity. By following these guidelines, you can drastically reduce translation quality subjectivity.

We’d like to hear from you. What steps has your company taken to ensure high-quality translations?

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