Friday, July 2, 2010

Linguistic quality assurance

The second of the four types of quality assurance for freelance translators is linguistic quality, which is the most important aspect for us linguists. The subject has been discussed in many venues and forms before but a refresher is always useful.

I summarized linguistic quality in my previous post as the following:
- Only accept projects that are within your expertise
- Have access to suitable, current reference material
- Use relevant tools that increase quality, for example translation memory and spell checking
- Proofread the end result carefully

Today I want to develop each of these points a bit further. Linguistic quality is the foundation for the “product” we deliver and the core of our knowledge. Many have tried to create “systems” for linguistic quality assurance. There are the ISO and BS systems, there is certification and accreditation, and there are quality assurance programs etc.

Are you feeling overwhelmed already? What can a translator do for quality assurance? Here are some tips:

1. Only accept jobs within your area of expertise/specialization and only translate into your native language.
2. Use CAT-tools to avoid omissions and eye mistakes and to keep the formatting.
3. Never hesitate to contact your customer for clarifications.
4. Find another translator to co-operate with for second proofreading when needed.
5. Always read the clients reference material and use their glossaries
6. Know the target audience for the final product and translate for this audience.
7. Understand the objective of the translation project; is it informative text, ad copy, brand identity…?
8. Use Translation Quality Assurance software if available. These are able to decrease the number of mistakes and improve the overall quality, even if they cannot detect everything, or detect too much/the wrong things.
9. Proofread carefully.

When you proofread there are even further tips to increase the quality:

1. Avoid rework by translating each phrase as if the translation were to be published immediately.
2. Keep a list of dangerous words that you often mistype, but that a spell checker cannot detect.
3. Run the spell and grammar checker. Before doing this though, select the entire document, set the language to your target language and make sure that the checker is fully active.
4. Learn study and comply with target-language typography and punctuation rules. I have noticed that this is one of the most common mistakes among newer translators. For example in US English you write $3,000.00, but in Swedish it is written USD 3 000,00.
5. Never use the “Replace all” command
6. Proofread by comparing with the source, but also by just reading the target text to check that it “flows”.
7. Check headers, footer, graphs and text boxes. These are easy to miss; even CAT-tools can miss them sometimes.

Last but not least, read in your target language often and take continuing education classes at conferences, universities, translation associations etc.

These are some of the tips I have collected. Do you have any you find valuable?
I will leave you with this rather long and heavy post for the month of July. I am off on a road trip to the Oregon coast for family reunions, parties and camping. Have a great summer!

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