Expanding to international markets has its share of perks and catches, depending on how effective companies design and execute their localization strategies. The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) found linguistic quality assurance (LQA) costly when the banking giant mistranslated the catchphrase “Assume Nothing.”
Although English-speaking countries understood what the organization meant, other cultures interpreted it as “Do Nothing,” costing the corporation $10 million in rebranding. Your company doesn’t have to experience what HSBC and other business organizations found the hard way.
Language Quality Assurance or Linguistic Quality Assurance is an essential component of your Translation Quality strategy, allowing you to succeed in your localization objectives.
This article presents everything you need to know about Language Quality Assurance and how it can help your business with an eye on the global market.
An Overview of Linguistic Quality Assurance
Linguistic Quality Assurance or Language Quality Assurance are processes that verify language translation precision related to cultural accuracy, localized terminology, linguistic phrasing, and other peculiar elements of local culture.
It’s crucial to differentiate linguistic quality assurance from language quality assessment and control. Most people use these terms interchangeably. Unfortunately, such behavior only adds to translation complexity. Let’s start with quality assurance and quality control.
The easiest way to differentiate quality assurance from quality control is by looking at its focus.
Quality assurance aims to prevent defects, errors, or problems by ensuring all processes adhere to established quality standards. You can think of it as a proactive approach, having a keen eye for details that will prevent the occurrence of issues that undermine product quality.
On the other hand, quality control is more reactive – focusing on addressing problems or defects after they have occurred.
Although post-facto, QC has value in translation quality because it allows future language translation activities to proceed according to standards. The succeeding processes will also have quality assurance keeping an eye for potential issues before they get out of hand.
Hence, QC activities can also involve actively looking for and eliminating sources of quality issues, feeding the QA with information on what to include in future operations.
We can look at language quality assurance as a set of well-planned, organized, and systematic activities that ensure adherence to the highest possible quality standards.
These techniques also proactively seek out potential problem areas before they manifest as errors or defects.
So, where does quality assessment come into this?
Assessment is nothing more than data gathering and collection, making it a critical activity for both QA and QC. After all, it would be challenging to say the translation complies with set standards if you don’t know how to measure or collect data about it.
Likewise, knowing if the translation has errors or defects would be impossible without quality assessment.
Why Linguistic Quality Assurance Matters
There’s no such thing as an insignificant or mediocre translation error, especially if you’re appealing to eccentric populations.
People take pride in their cultural uniqueness, including their language or dialect. So, if you think you can forgive a tiny spelling mistake or a wrong idiomatic expression, other cultures might be less forgiving.
The Hongkong Shanghai Banking Corporation’s 2008 debacle is a case in point. Native English speakers know and understand what HSBC meant by “Assume Nothing.” Unfortunately, other countries read the message differently, translating it as “Do Nothing.”
We don’t even have to look at HSBC to understand the value of language quality assurance.
Have you ever bought a Chinese-made product?
Did it come with a user guide or other reference documents?
If you try to read these materials, there’s a good chance you’ll either laugh at the translation or scratch your head in disbelief. Some reading materials have poor translation quality, so you end up trying to make sense of the product.
Linguistic quality assurance ensures the translation process adheres to predefined standards. It empowers linguists and translators to produce the best possible translation material clients expect.
It’s crucial to understand that industries or sectors have different linguistic quality assurance issues.
For example, healthcare organizations emphasize absolute translation precision and quality because they deal with people’s lives.
Translation miscues can undermine healthcare information quality, putting lives at risk.
Healthcare organizations do not only put their patients’ lives at risk. They also court medical malpractice and negligence claims.
Poorly-translated healthcare materials can also break regulatory and legislative mandates, subjecting companies to costly lawsuits.
Linguistic quality assurance enables organizations to address problem areas before the issues manifest in the translated material. Otherwise, the company must institute linguistic quality control.
The Translation Quality Control Process
An effective language quality assurance strategy hinges on a precise translation quality control process. Although translation service providers have varying workflows, they share several steps.
Professional translators and linguists translate one language to another. Quality translation hinges on the project’s perceived value.
For example, an internal memo might not require 100% translation accuracy because internal customers consume the information.
However, if the business aims to communicate to its external customers, it’s imperative to translate the material as accurately as possible. Otherwise, the organization loses the translation’s commercial value.
Whoever translates the material adheres to language quality assurance techniques, adhering to set guidelines and creating a copy free of errors.
Copyreading and Editing
A copyreader evaluates the translated material for errors, including misspellings, grammatical issues, and punctuation errors.
On the other hand, copyeditors ensure the translated material reads well, allowing them to modify it when necessary. One can look at this as the quality control aspect of language translation.
Copyeditors are crucial for valuable translated content. For example, a company that wants to develop marketing material for its local market might want to have an editor to evaluate and enhance the translated piece to deliver a more compelling and engaging message.
On the other hand, copy-reading is often sufficient for developing user guides.
Copyreaders and copyeditors must be competent in applying language quality assurance measures to guarantee the translated material lives up to the client’s expectations.
Desktop publishing or multimedia professionals receive the edited copy and translate it into the correct format or layout before publication. Although this step is not linguistic, it is crucial in ensuring translation quality.
Proofreading and Editing
Some people are confused between proofreading and copyreading. A copyeditor refines the translated material for multimedia or desktop publishers to create a final copy, also known as the “proof.” On the other hand, the proofreader and editor check the correctness or accuracy of the “final copy” before sending it to the client.
It’s the last line of defense against linguistic errors before the client receives the project. Hence, proofreaders and editors must also have impeccable knowledge of language quality assurance tools to ensure document or webpage translation quality.
Whoever is in charge of the translation project transmits the finalized material – webpage or document – to the client. However, the project manager must also execute a final check of the material’s translation quality.
Language quality assurance doesn’t end with the transmittal of the final copy of the translated material. The client must also evaluate the final output for accuracy and quality.
Hence, it’s not unusual for clients to employ the services of a subject matter expert in assessing the translated material.
For example, a marketing manager might want to evaluate a product brochure, while a product specialist should check the accuracy of the translated manual.
On the other hand, a legal counsel might want to assess a translated contract to determine quality and precision.
It’s worth noting that almost every step of the translation quality control process requires quality assessment to determine adherence to predefined standards. It also underscores the value of performing language quality assurance activities, freeing the final output of costly errors and mistakes.
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Challenges to Translation Quality Management
Ensuring translation quality is easier said than executed. Several factors can make translation quality management challenging even for well-meaning organizations. The following exemplifies some of the most pressing concerns about translation quality management.
The concept of linguistic quality is vague
How do you measure quality? Is it even quantifiable? Experts say it’s possible to quantify quality meaningfully by deliberately unpacking a concept’s defining attributes. People can then express each quality attribute and subject it to measurement.
Unfortunately, linguistic quality is more vague and abstract than other concepts. Regional dialects, idioms, and local communication patterns differ across languages. For example, we know that the Japanese speak Nihongo.
Unfortunately, the Nihongo of Fukuoka or Osaka is slightly different from the dialect of the Chugoko. It’s worth mentioning that Japan has 47 smaller varieties of its national language.
Another example is China, which has ten Chinese dialects. Many linguists consider these Chinese dialects as separate languages. Hence, a linguist might be proficient in Cantonese and Hakka but not Min and Wu Chinese.
Dissecting the quality attributes of each dialect and language is possible but challenging. Companies must employ linguists and cultural experts to provide a comprehensive deconstruction of a specific language for translation.
Translation service providers are responsible for ensuring the language-translation quality that client companies demand.
Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to start. The company can employ language quality assurance techniques, but these can be hit or miss because the quality attributes might be deficient or not clearly defined.
Although language translation providers must ensure quality outputs, client companies must also feel confident about the “quality” they seek.
It’s natural for businesses to demand only the best from third-party organizations because the output reflects on the organization, not the translation service provider.
The challenge here is whether or not the service provider’s concept of linguistic quality is similar to the client’s idea of language quality.
Unknown linguistic risks
It’s challenging to identify linguistic risks if you’re unsure of the quality attributes to measure.
We know that quantifying quality isn’t as straightforward as we hope. What worries many organizations is the quality issues that might occur in the translation project. Unfortunately, it’s problematic to prepare for any eventualities when you don’t know the measurable attributes of linguistic quality.
One classic example is translation proficiency. Seasoned translators aren’t machines. Their ability to translate one language to another is only effective for as long as their cognitive functioning is intact.
Unfortunately, the aging process tends to dent mental and cognitive abilities. Accidents can also occur, undermining the translator’s aptitude.
If you’re the employer of this translator, what will you do if he cannot translate the material as precisely and high quality as before? How will you determine if his translation competencies are at par with global standards?
Companies can only hope that no linguistic quality issues will derail their projects. A comprehensive language quality assurance mechanism should help linguists and project professionals identify potential concerns even before they wreak havoc on the project.
Difficulty giving linguistic quality feedback to junior linguists
Linguists and translators aren’t immortal. Senior translators must also mentor and guide junior linguists and translators in ensuring translation quality.
Unfortunately, this is not as easy as it sounds because everything hinges on the objectivity of linguistic quality assessments.
A senior linguist might find it challenging to give feedback to an aspiring translator if the language quality assessment is vague.
Moreover, the junior translator will have difficulty operationalizing the feedback, potentially resulting in substandard or poor-quality translation.
The challenge is for companies and language translation providers to have a systematic mechanism for communicating objective assessments, allowing junior linguists to ensure a high level of language quality assurance in future projects.
The more manual processes and tools a company uses to manage translation quality, the higher the risk for errors. For example, a business organization might have hundreds of for-translation materials requiring downloading, processing, sharing, and commenting by different persons.
The workflow is not only tedious, but the resources are also immense.
Companies that aim to localize to a hundred different markets often find decentralization unsuitable. It’s costly, time-consuming, and non-scalable.
Organizations can address this issue by investing in a comprehensive translation platform that ensures smoother workflows and communication across units. The cost of the technology might seem prohibitive, but it is a cost-efficient approach in the long term.
The Role of Modern Technologies s in Translation Quality Management
Translation quality management starts with the actual translation of the target material.
The succeeding translation quality management steps will be a breeze If you can guarantee translation accuracy and quality at the critical first step.
We’re not saying the copyeditor and proofreader no longer need to evaluate the translated material. Their work will be easier while also quickening the transmittal of the final output to the client.
Unfortunately, translating voluminous materials can be time-consuming and error-prone. Machine translation technologies can take this burden and improve translation accuracy by referencing translated linguistic materials in a neural network environment.
Gone are the dinosaurs of machine translation – rule-based translation and statistical machine translation. The world now has neural machine translation technologies that process unthinkable volumes of data to deliver highly accurate translation at lightning speeds.
Modern technologies also improve workflow efficiency. For example, a single platform can serve as a venue for collaboration between different translation quality process players, such as DTP engineers, multimedia teams, copyreaders, editors, web developers, and even clients. They can log into the platform, promoting efficient communication and teamwork.
Advances in translation management technologies also empower project managers and editors to share feedback with everyone. It’s instrumental in ensuring the development of a future pool of highly accurate and quality-focused translators and linguists.
A comprehensive language quality assurance system is crucial to ensuring translation quality. It’s a multi-step process that requires linguists and other persons involved in the project to keep an eye for errors and deviations from set standards.
Although language translation service providers cannot guarantee absolute translation precision, they can simplify linguistic quality assurance processes.
We can provide your company with meaningful translation solutions to meet your localization requirements and maximize your globalization and internationalization efforts.