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Apr 28, 2007

Quality management for freelance translation projects

(Edited by freelance Chinese translator li – English to Chinese or Chinese to English translation services)
Quality management, including quality control and quality assurance, is a crucial aspect of translation, yet most translators, even those who have developed their own way of turning round the problem, do not have a precise understanding of the definitions of these concepts, nor an elaborated way of implementing them.

To manage quality on our project, we must first understand the specific quality expectations of our client and then put a plan in place to meet those expectations. The most important elements of this plan are the quality control and quality assurance activities that must be performed.

Quality Control refers to quality related activities associated with translation projects. It is used to make sure that the translation will be of good quality and that it will be complete and correct.

Quality Assurance refers to the process of granting approval to a project. It can be performed by the translator, the client or a third-party reviewer.

Managing quality in translation projects

The method for managing quality includes:

A) Agreeing on Completeness and Correctness Criteria

The translator and the client should agree beforehand on what completeness and correctness mean for the project. The project may then be evaluated against these criteria before it is formally approved.

B) Putting in Place a Quality Control process

The main reason why some projects fail to meet client expectations for quality is that some translators do not think ahead about how they are going to manage quality on the project. This is the purpose of the quality control process or quality plan. A quality control process starts when the client contacts the translator and continues after delivery of the project, until when it is finally accepted.

It is the program of the processes and activities that will be put into place to provide quality translations are described.

Here is an example of a quality control process valid for a typical technical translation project; it can be adapted to comply with any translator’s personal methods and field of expertise:

1. Accepting a project
Taking into consideration of the requirements and specialties involved, the degree of difficulty of the project to complete and the turn-around time, it is advisable not to accept any project without making sure that it falls within one’s translating ability.

2. Pre-translation
This consists of reviewing the client’s material and requirements thoroughly before starting a project. Do some preliminary research, and if needed, build a new glossary/Translation memory.

3. Translation
Providing translation services requires not only language skills. A well conducted translation project would require a professional translator with both the necessary linguistic and specific subject matter expertise. A translator normally relies on glossaries, translation memories, dictionaries and Internet resources, in addition to his knowledge and experience.

Always use the translation memories and glossaries along with the concerned style guide provided by the client to assure consistency. If there are some instructions from the client, they should be studied before starting the job.

4. Referring to the client to make some points clear
Ask the client all questions that we could not solve or that only he can answer, like client’s specific short names and abbreviations, unclear context for occurrence of a word. Receive the answers and do whatever you can conclude or that is instructed.

5. Language review
In a language review, translations are compared against original documents to check for incorrect translations or omissions. In this process, according to rules of technical writing, parts requiring so are rewritten to make them easier to read and understand.

6. Proofreading
This is the review of the translation against style guides and terms lists, if any, to ensure that it is in the correct format, the guides or terms lists are followed, and correct expressions are used.

C) Performing Quality Assurance Checks

This consists of evaluating the final project against the completeness and correctness criteria defined in accordance with the client. As we said above, it can be performed either by the translator, the client or a third-party reviewer.

The cornerstone for quality in translation

Experience serves as a guarantee for quality. In the course of translation the translator must focus on controlling the progress and quality. To prevent the progress of quality from going out of control, all texts must be translated by the experienced translator himself. This also helps assure the consistency of the customer’s documents.

From:Chantal Kamgne

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