Translation Quality

Translation quality is the degree to which a translation meets specific predefined standards or requirements. It can be determined according to established industry standards or in relation to specific context-related attributes.

How is translation quality determined?

Evaluating the quality of a translation project considers a set of quality metrics. These metrics can differ between providers and should be looked at before ordering the translation.

The evaluation will look at the metrics, but also categorize the errors according to their severity. In the end, taking into account severity levels and quantity of errors (often according to former LISA standards, per thousand words), the quality of the final product will be determined.

This means that prior to outsourcing translation, the client and the language service provider (LSP) need to agree on quality requirements, quality metrics, and how quality control will be maintained. As a result, both sides will be in agreement on the process.

The following metrics are widely adapted for translation quality assessment:

  • Accuracy,
  • Spelling,
  • Punctuation,
  • Style,
  • Layout,
  • Client’s requirements,
  • Grammar,
  • Terminology.

What steps does translation quality evaluation involve?

Depending on the previously established metrics and steps, the process of translation quality evaluation could be broken down as follows:

Review

Translation quality assessment undergoes various stages that can differ depending on the language service provider and client. Usually, after a translation is done, it will undergo revision. After that, the translation gets evaluated according to the metrics.

Editing

If the quality is not high enough to send the translation to the client, it will have to be edited. The translator themselves can do this according to specific guidelines provided. If the translator is not up to the task, it will be carried out by another translator or language expert with the necessary expertise.

Final Revision

As soon as the translation is determined to be of high quality, it will be sent to the client. Here, another quality assessment is possible, especially for quite specific content. Most of the time, a collaborator who is native in the target language and possesses the right subject matter expertise will be taking care of this step.

A good indicator for choosing a language service provider according to the expected translation quality is accreditation with the ISO EN 17100 standard. It was developed as a substitute for the previous ISO EN 15038 and was established in 2015.

Language service providers who have been awarded the ISO EN 17100 certificate follow internationally agreed standards, not only to ensure translation quality but also adopting specific workflows and tools designed to result in better translation production and higher quality.

What challenges impact translation quality?

Most of the quality issues will be related to the experience, capabilities, skills, and care of the person delivering the job. However, some factors with a possible negative effect should be considered as well:

The translation budget is too low

Rendering a translation with good quality is a complex task. Depending on the client’s choice of outsourcing the translation project to an agency or an individual, the budget will need to cover all of the tasks that lead to final translation products with the desired quality level.

If the budget is too low, the hired resources will either be inexperienced or lacking the necessary expertise. Collaboration with an agency may result in some quality assessment steps being skipped entirely.

Demanding too literal translation results for more creative translation projects

If the translation project concerns fields like literature, marketing, arts, and culture, sticking to the source too much will often bring down translation quality. This is especially challenging when the source and target language are culturally very diverse. Metaphors and other stylistic tools might just not work in the specific target culture. The style might be considered inappropriate while certain words an offense.

Evaluating translation quality is not free of subjective assessment. Standards, as well as previously agreed quality requirements and metrics, will help to ensure quality translation result. Translation quality is vital to international acceptance, improved lead conversion in international markets, and the overall success of each global initiative. 

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