While there’s a lot of talk about quality assurance (QA) for the different services offered by LSPs, not as much is said about QA for in-house or institutional language services. Perhaps because in-house linguists do not compete in the open market with language service providers across the world to sell services. However, in-house translators are often confronted with the same factors which affect translation quality generally. At a recent reviser (editor) training I attended, participants from across Europe and parts of Africa all seemingly faced similar challenges relating to tight deadlines, large volumes to be translated, falling quality of source text, availability of language tools, insufficient manpower (or lower budgets), etc.  So how can large or small organisations with in-house language capabilities ensure output is top-notch?

What is translation quality?

Everyone has their expectations when it comes to a quality translation. However, generally, a quality translation is “accurate, fluent and fit for purpose, and complies with other specifications negotiated between the requester and provider”. This is a broad definition and organisations will narrow it down by rating language output in a consistent and uniform manner based on factors specific to them.

Communication is key

It is often said that quality starts with the source. And while translators and revisers cannot make people write in a certain way, open communication with the authors and among language team members will bring clarity which in turn enhances output. Active feedback should not be overlooked as authors can adjust future texts accordingly while translators – especially of outsourced documents – have the opportunity to improve.

Processes and guidelines

Basically, the TEP (Translation – Editing – Proofreading) process should be followed where the translation is checked by an editor against the original text and a proof-reader finishes off by reading through for errors. In this way, a second and third pair of eyes ensure correct meaning, style, terminology and error free language, etc. Specific guidelines may be developed in-house while EU and ISO standards provide recommendations.

The tools of the trade

Style guides, glossaries and terminology databases can be produced in-house and are essential if translation quality is to be consistent and fit for purpose. Carefully trained corpora should feed the translation memory of CAT tools and additional QA tools may be procured. For technology products and publications, authoring tools may be used to develop structured content.  

In summary, hiring suitably qualified linguists is only the starting point for good quality in-house translations. Quality translation in organisations is the result of a deliberate and responsive strategy which includes proper procedures and guidelines and use of technology and other tools and constant training of linguists to remain abreast with developments in a face-paced and agile industry.
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