How Translation Quality Assurance Works

Quality Assurance, better known as QA in most industries, is essentially a review editorial process. It is designed to look at work as it comes in, review all its components, and then render a judgement as to whether the product is failing to meet, meeting, or even exceeding the minimum level of acceptable standard for that field, product, or industry. In other words, the job of a QA team is to ensure that a good product or level of service is being produced. QA is important in everything from the manufacture of major consumer products to services to even the video games that people play. The world we live in has required increasingly higher levels of quality, and the only way to ensure that it happens is to have resources dedicated to monitoring quality and reinforcing the drive to maintain it.

Translation, especially in today’s globally connected world of business, entertainment and socializing, is no different.

With translation, the quality assurance process looks at a number of different factors. It’s understood that despite the superior translations given by humans over software interpretations, the very nature of a human-driven activity means that some error is going to creep in even with the best of intentions. QA is one more layer of review to go over all aspects of a translation before reverting it to the client for final submission. Depending on the willingness of the client, they can even get involved in this process themselves.

QA is one more layer of review to go over all aspects of a translation before reverting it to the client for final submission.

The QA process for translation looks at a number of things when evaluating. At the most basic level are actual grammar or spelling errors. The next level would be the actual quality of the translation, whether it is simply literal, word-for-word translation or whether it has been nuanced to feel much more natural and in-step with the current language trends. Finally, there’s a look at the quality of the writing or language itself. It may be grammatically correct, and it may even feel like a fluent sentence in the chosen language, but it may have awkward phrasing or use questionable syntax that a more accomplished writer in the language would naturally avoid. And then of course, there is the final hurdle; does the translation meet the goals of the client?

This kind of QA is often not as straightforward as people may think. For example if marketing content is being deemed as poorly translated by the client for not conveying the intended message, there may be an error on the translators part, or, as has been seen in some cases, the client may unknowingly fail to provide critical information required for the translators to do their job, making it impossible for them to meet these goals since they never had the tools—or the correct goal—in the first place. Other times, it may be a matter of the goal itself being incorrect, where QA may discover that a client’s wishes for a particular tone in the translation may actually be inappropriate to the audience that it is targeting, such as ads encouraging women to be fashionably sexy in the Middle East, where this behavior is frowned upon and considered religiously offensive.

It is important to understand that a great many factors work into a final, successful translation, and it is not as simple as making sure a sentence in one language is translated well enough to pass a software grammar check in another. Context, nuance and cultural sensitivity are all important aspects besides good grammar and writing, and these are all elements a quality assurance check will look for.

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