What is Quality in Translation?

Let’s look at a simple example: If a straightforward, simple one-page document needs to be translated into another language, does the linguist need to be an expert?

The answer is:  No. A machine translation can do the job, and the linguist can edit the text after it is translated.

Will you really call this translation: high-quality? The answer is relative. Yet, the final text meets the expectation of the client and the target audience.

Defining quality in translation is not easy. However, many linguists and translators agree upon several common factors that can impact quality in translation – especially in complex projects:

  • Complexity of the source text,
  • Adequacy and completeness,
  • Translator’s skill,
  • Process and expectations of the client,
  • Support technology, and many others.

It is also agreed upon that a poor translation can adversely and disastrously impact the acceptance of your product. Additionally, inaccurate translations can be very costly and can become an embarrassment to your brand. There have been a number of scenarios worldwide where errors in translation have exposed people and businesses to health problems, financial liability, disputes or even lawsuits. A lot of us have also seen funny translated mistakes circulated on social media.

Steps to Ensure Translation Quality Assurance:

  1. Do not get translations performed by the cheapest vendor. Mistakes generated by low-cost translation services can prove far more expensive in the long run
  2. Assign translations to a translator who is a native speaker of the target audience with an experience in the same subject matter or industry. Depending on the scale of the project, multiple translators might be assigned to complete the task.
  3. Edit the translated text to check it for errors, common mistakes, and grammatical flaws. The editor will also make sure that the meaning of the source text comes across in the translated text.
  4. Before publishing or sending the text to the client, a proofreader must check the final document to ensure nothing is missing. Vendor must assume responsibility for delivered output.
  5. Client must review the translated assignment to ensure it addresses its specific terminology. Ask for feedback from client, which might also include request for improvements.


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