It may surprise you to learn that a poor quality translation is not always the fault of the translator.

There are many instances throughout the translation process where quality can be compromised.

Before we dive into the 10 ways to ensure quality in translation, let’s first of all define ‘quality’ in regard to translation.

It is generally agreed that translation quality can be measured by the following 4 parameters:

Now that we’ve established what translation quality should look like, here are 10 ways to ensure quality in your next translation project.

1. Avoid machine translation

Sure, translation technology is constantly evolving and improving, however, the number one way to ensure quality in translation is to avoid being dependent on machine translation alone.

Whilst these tools can be helpful to understand the gist of a text in another language, they should be used in conjunction with a professional linguist and/or translation agency.

Why?

Because there is no quality assurance in machine translation.

Professional translators can utilise machine translation to help them provide faster, and more cost effective translations.

But humans cannot be replaced by machines (not yet anyway!).

If you want to lower costs, or need to speed up the translation process, you may opt to combine machine and human translation in a process called post-editing. 

This allows machine translations to be checked and revised by a professional linguist to ensure that the text at least makes sense and adheres to the quality parameters above, however it is not best practice quality assurance and sometimes it can be quicker and easier to simply translate from scratch rather than post-editing machine translation.

2. Provide clean and clear source texts

A high quality translation starts with a high quality source text.

If the source text is ambiguous and unclear, then there is an increased chance that the translator will make mistakes (and it’s not their fault).

We understand that sometimes documents need to include bureaucratic language or jargon, however this kind of language is extremely difficult to translate accurately.

Therefore, where possible, consider using Plain English in documents to be translated into other languages.

This will not only mean that you limit the opportunity for errors to be introduced during the translation process but also, your English documents will be easier to read too.

You can find helpful hints regarding creating Plain English texts in the Australian Government’s Plain English Style Manual.

3. Give a detailed brief

When a translator receives your document for translation, it should be accompanied by a brief, providing context and information about how the translation will be used, including its target audience.

The more information that you provide to your translation provider, the more the translator can adapt the text for use, meaning that it will naturally be of higher quality.

This means that by taking the time initially to consider your target audience and the overall purpose of your translation, you are more likely to receive a higher quality translation.

Doing so will also help reduce the need to clarify these details throughout the process, thus speeding up the translation process at the same time.

It’s a win win.

4. Work with NAATI Certified Translators

In Australia, NAATI Certified Translators are trusted to provide high quality translations.

Wondering what NAATI means?

NAATI is the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters.

They are responsible for setting, maintaining and promoting high professional standards for the language services sector in Australia.

To become NAATI Certified, a translator must undergo extensive training and successfully pass an accreditation test.

“NAATI certification provides quality assurance and confidence to consumers who rely on translator and interpreter services to participate effectively in our society.”

You can find more information about NAATI on their website.

At Ethnolink, most of the translators that we work with have NAATI Certification, which helps us to ensure that the translations we produce are of the highest possible quality.

5. Make sure that your project has a revision step

No matter how qualified they are or how experienced they may be, translators are only human, so naturally, they sometimes make mistakes.

That is why we recommend that, where time and budget permit, translations should be checked by a second, independent NAATI Certified translator.

This step allows the original translator to receive feedback and adjust the translation accordingly.

6. Develop a working relationship with your translation supplier

By establishing an ongoing relationship with one translation provider, not only will the translation process be smoother, but the quality of your projects will improve.

How?

Translation providers can create glossaries and translation memories based on previous translations that they have completed for you.

By doing this, the terminology used in your documents will remain consistent and of a high quality.

You can also ask for the same translators to work consistently on your projects.

As they get to know you and your expectations, you will notice that the quality of the translations you receive will also improve.

7. Use a professional and experienced multilingual typesetter

From our experience, the majority of issues that arise in translation stem from typesetting.

If you’re not sure what typesetting is, it’s the process of setting text on a page, in most cases, digitally, by using software such as Adobe InDesign.

So what makes multilingual typesetting so difficult to get right?

  • Right to left languages such as Arabic and Dari can be very difficult to handle if you do not have experience working with them
  • Chinese, Japanese and Korean (CJK) characters have specific typesetting conventions
  • Inappropriate line height for some languages leads to overlapping text

Due to these various considerations, there are ample opportunities for things to go wrong.

This means that a quality translation may become compromised during the typesetting process.

Therefore, the best practice for multilingual typesetting is to leave it to your translation provider if they provide this service.

8. Consider back translation

In addition to revision by another translator, back translation is an optional quality assurance step which evaluates the accuracy of a translation.

Back translation is especially useful when producing technical translations, such as scientific or medical texts, where the accurate transfer for information is of the utmost importance.

Essentially, it involves an independent translator, who has never seen the source text before, translating the target text back into the source language.

Next, the original text and the back translation are compared to assess the quality of the translation that was produced.

Sounds complicated? It is a little, however, it is a proven and effective step in the quality assurance process.

9. Talk to your translation supplier about localization and transcreation

Depending on your content and the intended target audience, translation alone may not be enough to create a high quality product.

Why?

Because sometimes translation is limited by language and is unable to take into account other facts such as cultural norms and emotion.

These limits means that the end product may not be well received by the target audience.

That’s where localization and transcreation come into play.

These two strategies allow for changes to be made to that target text, making it better adapted to the cultural norms and expectations of the target audience.

So what’s the difference?

Localization maintains the same message as the source text whilst adapting some aspects to meet local cultural norms (i.e. currency, units of measurement).

Meanwhile, transcreation follows a creative brief to create new messaging that will be better received by the target audience because it is adapted to their cultural norms and experiences (i.e. slogans, literary texts).

You can learn more about transcreation in our blog post ‘Translation vs Transcreation: Everything You Need to Know’.

Don’t worry if you’re unsure which service to opt for. Your translation provider will be able to guide you through choosing the best option for you and your project.

10. Don’t rush your project

We know that sometimes time is not a luxury that you may have, however, wherever possible, planning ahead will undoubtedly improve the quality of your project.

Like anything, if the translation process is rushed, there is a higher risk of errors occurring.

Whilst most translation providers can meet short deadlines, be aware that if you ask for translations to be rushed, you have to understand that the quality may not be as high as if it were completed in a standard time frame.

Try to get in touch with your language service provider as early as possible, even if your source text is not yet finalised.

That way, they can start to plan for your project and get all the wheels in motion to deliver the highest quality translation possible.

How we ensure quality at Ethnolink

At Ethnolink, we strive to produce high quality translations every single day.

That’s why we have a stringent quality assurance process, with at least eight quality checks along the way, to make sure that our projects are of the highest possible quality.

You can see each stage of ‘The Ethnolink Process’ detailed below.

If you would like to know more about quality assurance in general, or our services more specifically, get in touch with one of our friendly and experienced Translation Strategists today.