TQA – Translation Quality Assessment

It is without any doubt that in the last several years, one of the main requests from translators and the translation market is quality. But then again, quality has always been one of the main pillars in the provision of services.

At Translator SRL we are continuously trying to improve the quality of our services. In doing so, we have observed over the last years how clients have begun more and more to prioritize quality over fast-delivered translations. This aspect motivated us to try and find systematic ways to improve quality. One was by implementing international standards, mainly ISO 9001 and ISO 17100 that deal with Quality Management and Translation Service Requirements; another was to grow our supplier database by discovering and working with translators who are well prepared and deliver high quality translations. But our main focus this year was on helping translators and revisers to improve their skills through constructive feedback.

The most efficient and productive way to increase quality is through constant feedback and revisions. We are not referring only to feedback received directly from the clients, but mainly to the feedback received from our revisers. In order to receive a constructive feedback for translators, the revisers, in their turn, should know and understand the purpose of a revision. Unfortunately, we see a lack of (academic) training when it comes to the provision of revision services.

As a graduate of EMT programme, the main focus has continuously been on translation. Revision was only a course in the last semester of the final year, which mainly consisted in correcting translations. There was no presentation or indication on how to structure a revision process, and no studies on revisions were suggested. Being more interested in the process rather than the practice itself and after searching for references with regard to this matter, the only study that seemed quite comprehensible was Bryan Mossop’s book, Revising and Editing for Translators.

Working in the translation market in the last couple of years, the lack of training for revisers was clear in everyday work. The cases in which we receive subjective and unjustifiable feedback from revisers occur quite often. Does this sound familiar? ‘I know I made a lot of changes, but the translation is very good’. Or even the opposite situation, in which the reviser made small and insignificant changes to the translation but argued that the translation was not good enough.

Therefore, in order to reduce the gap between what we see in the text and the reviser’s feedback, to discourage the practice of receiving subjective and, at times, emotional feedback, and to actually improve in a constructive way the quality of our services (all of us: agency, translators, revisers, etc.), we have considered the necessity to develop a system through which we are trying to help and guide our revisers: TQA – Translation Quality Assessment.

TQA is a system based on types of errors and their level of severity that is integrated in our main CAT tool, memoQ. This structure is meant to guide the revisers, to make them more aware about the type of mistakes they are correcting, and to offer them the possibility to add further details about a certain mistake using comment boxes.

We consulted several existing TQA systems, such as LISA QA model, SDL Trados Studio’s TQA model, MemoQ LQA model and Multidimensional Quality Metrics (MQM). We took into consideration the translation process and what we usually expect from our translators. Basically, the reviser should ensure that the translator has implemented the project indications and that the translations adheres to the linguistic and technical standards of the target culture.

The structure of our TQA system consists of five main categories each having several subcategories. The five main categories are accuracy, fluency, locale conventions, style, and terminology.

Accuracy deals with the transfer of the text from one language to another. The reviser has to make sure that the target text reflects the source text, allowing for any differences authorized by specifications. Generally, errors that fall under this category are additional information in the target text, mistranslation, omission, untranslated information/text, etc.

Fluency deals with issues related to the grammar or syntax of the text. Here, the reviser has to pay attention only to the target text and has to ensure that the grammatical rules follow the grammatical standards of the target language. Errors corresponding to this category are disagreements between different parts of speech, inconsistencies within the target text, typos, ambiguity in meaning, word placement errors, etc.

Locale convention refers to issues regarding the locale-specific conventions such as currency format, date format, name format, number format, etc.

Style refers to issues of stylistic nature. Projects usually come with specifications, rules, guides. The translator has to implement such specifications that are communicated by the project manager, and the reviser has to check that the translator followed such indications, and apply them when they were accidentally omitted.

Terminology deals with issues related to the usage of terms in a specific domain or from a specific termbase. Not all the projects come with a client termbase, however, certain terms are used and preferred in a specific domain and should be used in the target text. The reviser has to ensure that the translator used the appropriate terms, or, if applicable, that the translator avoided terms that are either deprecated or marked as forbidden in a provided termbase.

We are aware that it is hard to classify certain errors or that sometimes they may belong to several categories. However, in ambiguous cases, the revisers should ask themselves three questions:

  • Is there really a need to make the change?
  • How will this error or the change affect the scope of the translation and the image of the client?
  • Do I have an objective reasoning to make this change?

The first two questions will help the revisers understand if the change is neutral, minor, major or critical, thus making them conscious about whether the change is preferential/subjective or not, and, at the same time, making them aware of how the client would perceive such an error/change.

The second question will help the revisers see if the error can be classified into a specific category. If there is no category to which the error/change falls into, then there is a strong chance that the ‘error’ is not actually an ‘error’ and that the change is most likely preferential, in which case it should preferably be left as such.

This system is not perfect and we know that it is not applicable to all types of translation projects. It would be difficult to impose this system in projects where it is requested from the translator and reviser to be highly creative and where they have the freedom to digress from the source text, as it usually occurs with marketing translation.

Sometimes, classification of errors seems to be perceived as very time-consuming. While this may be true at the beginning, in the long run this exercise becomes automatic for the reviser and actually it will end up reducing the time spent on the revision because the reviser will have the experience and knowledge to understand faster if a change needs to be applied or not, instead of always making those subjective changes which may be influenced by the mental and emotional state of the reviser at that moment. Nonetheless, at this initial stage of our implementation of the TQA system, we only require the reviser to apply it on a certain small number of pages or only when encountering major and critical errors in the translated text.

The TQA system is a useful tool for revisers, translators and project managers. The revisers are guided during their revision process, while the translators beneficiate from a constructive feedback. We are continuously encouraging the use of this system by providing support to our revisers, by extending the duration of the revision process and by raising the revision rates. Following this direction is greatly beneficial to all participants in the process and helps improving the quality of our services.

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Young Talents

Young Talents

Gabriela Vornicu, Sabine Crihan and Ciprian Iovu are our younger colleagues, talented and well-prepared professionals who motivate us with their enthusiasm, creative energy and love for this profession.

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