How to Sound Like a Pro when Talking about Translation Quality
Quality assurance, quality control, quality evaluation… Does your head spin when you hear these words?
We hear you.
Translation quality is always a bit confusing if only for the many standards involved, none of which tell you how to measure it. Think of the international ISO 17100, ASTM F2575 in the US, the Canadian CAN/CGSB-131.10-2008, and all the other specific translation-related standards, like ISO/TS 11669 providing general guidance for all phases of a translation project, to ISO 18587 on post-editing of machine translation.
However, most of confusion comes from the numerous acronyms and terms that are not always used consistently, especially with respect to common quality practices in other industries.
6 Essential Acronyms about Translation Quality
In the following list, we want to try and help you clear the mist about translation quality concepts and, at the same time, help you sound like an expert when using the relevant terminology.
QM stands for Quality Management and it refers to the overall processes and means to achieve quality. It is an essential activity because different products and different target groups often have different quality requirements.
QA usually refers to Quality Assurance and is very similar to Quality Management. QA is all about the procedures used to prevent mistakes and defects in products and avoid problems when delivering products or services to customers.
Outside of the translation industry, quality assurance relies heavily on automation, while within the translation industry the A in QA is closer to assessment than assurance.
Generally speaking, quality assessment should be an objective procedure based on strict criteria to evaluate the conformity of a deliverable to specific requirements. In the translation and localization industry, on the other hand, QA consists of mechanical control of errors/defects that can be easily eliminated or avoided such as in locale elements (time and date, currency, punctuation, etc.), empty segments, inconsistencies with specific glossary or non-translatable lists, etc. A good translation management platform usually offers a QA functionality with both standard and customized checks.
LQA is another puzzling acronym. It stands for Linguistic Quality Assurance and it differs from the above-mentioned QA because it is done by a linguist or an in-country reviewer. The reviewer checks each sentence (or, if you prefer, each segment) for any language errors, which could be due to lack of knowledge of the source and/or target language and/or the topic, producing an incorrect rendering of the meaning of a sentence, words missing from the text, etc… LQA is rather subjective and still essential in the traditional translation process: for this reason, to avoid adding mistakes it is necessary to provide the reviewer with specific and accurate guidelines. Without these guidelines, the reviewer may introduce new errors because of a bias. If the reviewer is a linguist, they will follow language conformity criteria, while an in-country reviewer (such as the local dealer/manager of the end client) will evaluate the translation from a more technical/commercial point of view.
QC means Quality Control, i.e. a procedure that guides the inspection of each component or of a sample (in case of large batches/lots) in order to assess the conformity to specifications or requirements. In an industrial setting, QC is done by extracting a sample from a batch/lot and counting the errors/defects contained in the sample. This way, we can ascertain the conformity to a predefined quality threshold.
In a translation setting, the inspection takes place in each single part of the product (i.e. the translation) and errors are corrected. The QC (and editor) is usually the reviewer, who should receive precise guidelines on which errors should be spotted and how they should be corrected.
MQM means Multidimensional Quality Metrics. It’s a framework that helps you adapt metrics to the specific nature of a translation project. Translation projects are not created equal and, therefore, they do not all have the same quality requirements. Documentation for a medical device will have very high and strict quality requirements (no errors are allowed), while a technical text might follow a ‘fit-for-purpose’ approach, simply because it needs to convey few bits of information to technicians. Within the MQM framework you can find a catalogue of error typologies to be selected and adapted to single translation projects.
From the MQM there is only a short step to reach DQF, which stands for Dynamic Quality Framework. This approach is useful to select the most appropriate translation quality evaluation model and metrics depending on specific translation quality requirements. Why Dynamic? Because translation quality changes according to the project and it should defined not by the translator or the language service provider, but by the translation buyer (i.e. the end client).
Finally, a good starting point to learn more about the various concepts is this collection of resources offered by GALA.
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