Quality Standards in Translation

It’s difficult to assess the quality of translated material – after all – you’re probably bringing in a translator because you don’t speak the target language.

Some translation agencies offer quality management standard certifications that establish a framework for how the agency manages its processes. These standards mean that the business follows a professional framework that’s independently assessed as being fit for purpose.

Quality standards can help you assess the quality of the translation services on offer.

But whilst these are helpful to understand that a translation service follows adequate procedures, it’s also important to work with your translation team to ensure a successful outcome to each project. Although a translator may follow all the right standards, they’ll also need to be well briefed to be able to deliver the right outcome for your translation project.

How to assess the quality of a translation service

Assessing the quality of a translation service isn’t just a case of determining the effectiveness of the language work. You’ll also want to consider elements of the service such as how well your account is managed, speed of delivery, ease of doing business and technical aspects including the way your information is handled. The latter is particularly important if sensitive materials are being handled, and you’ll want some assurances about data protection if this is the case. All these factors need to be considered alongside the quality of the translated material.

Quality standard certifications help assess all of these business factors, giving you some peace of mind.

It can be difficult to get visibility of a company’s IT infrastructure and processes, which is one reason why certification is useful. It means a third party assesses their provision to ensure it is fit for purpose and you can feel confident using the service. Certification will also cover the company’s data protection policies and processes.

TOPPAN Digital Language was most recently audited in July 2016 and we are certified as ISO 17100 compliant. We were previously assessed using the older EN 15038 certification standard, which has now been replaced. There are very few differences between the 15038 and the ISO 17100 – in fact 15038 forms the basis of the more recent standard. Most of the differences are in terms of translator qualifications and record storage.

Introduced in 2015, the ISO 17100 quality standard sets out certain requirements for the core processes and resources that a translation service needs to offer. It’s a way of ensuring that both the processes and resources delivered will meet the client’s specifications. As a recent qualification, it’s useful because it takes into account the latest data protection concerns.

A plethora of quality standards

There are a number of different quality standards that are applicable to the language services industry. Not all of the ones that cover translation services will also apply to interpretation services, as these tend to be assessed by separate quality standards.

A separate quality certification standard is also used for machine translation, even if the translated material is reviewed and edited by a human.

In fact, the quality standard covering machine translation (ISO 18587) states that the person who post-edits any machine translated material needs to have the equivalent qualification to a translator covered by ISO 17100 quality standards.

With machine translated material usually associated with a lower standard of translation quality, insisting on this high level of qualification for a human editor helps introduce some quality back into the process.

A framework for excellence

Quality standards help translation service providers as they set out a framework for excellence. TOPPAN Digital Language offers a huge range of services and languages which means that we work with many professional translators across multiple locations. Because our services have a broad scope, we need to work hard to ensure consistency of service across the business.

Quality standard certification is helpful because it provides the framework we need to achieve this consistency.

From the point of view of our clients, we think it’s also helpful because it makes it easier for businesses seeking a translation service to choose between competing agencies. Not only does the quality standard certification indicate the level of service on offer but it also helps translation customers understand price differentials between different providers.

If you drill down into the specifics of the different requirements to meet each quality standard, it also helps identify the quality focus of translation services that use different quality standards. Another way to look at this is that quality standards help clients understand what questions to ask a translation agency before they engage them.

Some people in the industry take the view that relying too heavily on quality standards can give a false sense of security.

Just because translation service standards are followed, this doesn’t necessarily guarantee high-quality translations. To really get to grips with translation quality it’s also important to focus on the long term development of the translators you work with. This includes working with translators to provide feedback and continuously improve the translation process as part of an ongoing professional relationship.

It’s important to remember that you yourself play an important part in delivering high-quality translations. Quality standards only assess one partner in the two-party translation process. You can contribute to the successful translation outcome by working with your translation team to provide a clear brief, clarify any points they query, and always explain what you’re trying to achieve with the finished translated and what effect it should have on its audience.

Ultimately, translated materials can only be judged on their effectiveness at communicating with their intended audience.

That’s a difficult thing to measure. You can help get a better outcome by working alongside your translation team so that a better result is achieved through teamwork.

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