Friday, April 11, 2008

[Translation] Dealing with Quality Issues on the Translation Process

Dealing with Quality Issues on the Translation Process
By Manuel Martín-Iguacel

The following is just a quick overview and not an exhaustive analysis.

Premise:
It is an imperative key principle not only to fulfil the customer’s needs but also to exceed their expectations so that they are happy and willing to create a long-lasting working relationship. In order to make this possible, we should address the quality issues in the most effective way.

There might be several reasons for explaining common quality issues. These are listed at random below.

1. Guidelines/instructions factor
Unclear guidelines and/or instructions regarding terminology and terminological priorities. Sometimes instructions are unnecessarily long and yet the same time not so informative. They contain references to “old battles” (issues), which do no longer apply and take an awful lot of space. Obviously, this may discourage many translators from reading on further. I am, personally, in favour of providing the translator with long initial instructions for reference only at the beginning of the project/collaboration and then providing them with short and concrete updates containing relevant information related to the potential issues in the future.

2. Time factor: Unrealistic or extremely tight deadlines.
They (the final clients) always want unrealistic deadlines: “I want it for yesterday”. Well, unfortunately this is they way it is, but it does not mean it is the way it should be. The truth is that very few final clients bother to try and understand the fact that the translation process, when carried out properly and professionally, must take a bit longer than just a tiny while.

3. Translator factor
Sometimes so-called experienced translators are just very enthusiastic junior translators with no proven track record or an unfinished educational background, i.e. they are not so experienced at all in the end.
Cheap translators are a very inviting and dangerous temptation. We all know that quality demands a price! Trying to save money at the initial stage (the translation itself) proves to make the whole localisation process in the end more expensive.

4. Project size factor (huge projects) – Teams of translators
When too many different translators work simultaneously on the same huge project, this endangers its consistency, accuracy and quality. This is a very common practice due to the commonly so unrealistic/extremely tight deadlines of huge size projects. If this working procedure is applied, then: 1. the use of common basic reference material and 2. a very thorough proofreading stage are absolutely vital.

5. Sub-contracting factor
Some translators might, illegally, sub-contract projects or parts of them assigned by a specific agency to third parties. If a translator wishes to sub-contract any work, this must be agreed to and permitted by that agency. Also, before delivery, the translator should always read the translation s/he has commissioned to a different translator in order to make sure it complies with the expected/desired level of quality.

6. Source text factor
Last but not least, the style and composition of the source text is quite often far from consistent and clear. The authors are experts on engineering, automotive, trucks, backhoe loaders, information technology, intelligent software, etc., but for whatever reason they do not have the time to write properly or they simply do not care. It is quite common to see the use of different words and expressions for the same concept, technical part, etc. Also, the construction of the sentences is too complex or unnecessarily long. To be fair with the technical authors, I must admit that they also experience time constraints, which obviously affect the final result in the negative way that everyone involved in the translation business has already noticed. Furthermore, sometimes the alleged source is also a translation, which raises unnecessary problems, leading to confusion and generating potential issues and queries.

Suggestions:

The ideal translation process I try to implement, by all means wherever is possible, is pretty comprehensive:
Translation + two Proofreading stages (un/formatted) + DTP format check

Initial and continuous reward to good/consistent and punctual translators is better than later punishment to not so good translators.

Giving frequent and positive feedback to the translators is as good and important or even better than only giving not so good feedback when it is too late...

Unfortunately it is quite difficult to find the time to send any feedback at all, unless something goes pretty wrong (there is a catastrophe…). This practice, however, should be established. It would contribute to creating and strengthening a bond between the agency and the translators/proofreaders, who would feel closer and more willing to deliver good work to the agency.

The practice of providing the translator with the formatted source text for reference has proven (to be) very useful, also as a potential problem-solving strategy.

Communication with the client.
It is essential to get the client used to maintaining an active channel/line of communication.
Frequent and quick feedback from the client concerning the translators’ queries can speed up considerably the translation and correction processes. It can also be helpful to share the queries generated by different the translators of different languages, when multilingual projects.

Educating the final client.
This is almost a “mission impossible”, but it might be a serious option to consider. Making the client aware that 1. the translation process and 2. a high quality final product requires reasonable deadlines to be properly and professionally implemented. Otherwise, and we all know that, the consequences can be fatal. Murphy is a quite hyperactive kind of guy and does not need much sleep.

Good luck!
¡Hasta la vista y saludo!

1 comment:

Delia said...

Great work.