“If we spoke a different language, we would perceive a somewhat different world.”

Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) Austrian-British philosopher

Introduction

To compete in a global market, you must speak the language—or rather all languages, of your customers. And that is no easy task considering there are roughly 7,000 languages in the world. Whether your translation needs to transcend multiple languages or just a handful—quality is critical, which cannot be achieved by just translating word for word.

What "Lost In Translation" really means

There are many challenges that can get in the way of ensuring your translated message is clear, concise and maintains the intended meaning. The typical mistakes include:
  • Grammatical errorserrors that deal with usage, tense, syntax and collocation. Example: the linguist uses the incorrect masculine/feminine inflection based on the grammatical rules of a particular language.
  • Mistranslations – translating words into a wrong or slightly different word. Example: translating the word pencil into a word that means pen or marker. While it is still a writing utensil, it technically changes what type of writing utensil is referenced.
  • Localization – translating words that do not exist in another language—meaning there is no one-to-one equivalency between the two languages. Example: there is no equivalent to the words “yes” and “no” in Chinese languages. Instead, native speakers might use “shi” which means “to be” or “dui” which means “true” in place of answering “yes.”
  • Inconsistencies – When there are multiple words that can be used to say something, a different word might be used in different documents, creating inconsistency and branding issues across documents. Example: the words “funny,” “amusing” and “hilarious” could each be used interchangeably to represent the same meaning.

I don't speak the language: How do I know the translations are accurate?

Most translation vendors claim they offer high-quality translations. But how can you really be sure you are getting the quality you expect? If you can’t speak the language, then you are forced to put a lot of trust in your vendor. To feel confident you are selecting a vendor that can deliver on their quality promise, ask questions to understand how they guarantee accurate, high-quality translations for their clients.

Here are 10 recommended questions you can ask to help evaluate vendors and the quality of their translations:

1. WHAT IS YOUR PROCESS FOR EVALUATING AND QUALIFYING LINGUISTS?

Ask your vendor to walk you through how they determine if a linguist has the proficiency to translate content between two languages. A good vendor should have multiple steps in place to qualify linguists, including evaluating their previous translation experience, training/ education and sample translations. They should also continuously measure linguists’ work with tests and sample translations to make sure they consistently perform at a high level. In many cases, a professional linguist who speaks the language may not be enough. Sometimes, even though a linguist may be fluent in the language, he/she may not be adequate for the job. For example, if you have technical content that needs to be translated, you’ll want to ensure the assigned linguists not only have fluency in the language but also have appropriate degrees, topic expertise and experience levels to understand and truly localize your content. In these instances, you’ll want to find out if the vendor uses specialists for these jobs and what the extra level of qualification requirements are for these specialists.

2. WHAT IS YOUR QUALITY PLAN?

There are multiple steps involved in the translation process, which means multiple opportunities for errors to potentially appear in content. Your vendor should work with you to map out a plan to track and manage quality throughout the entire translation process. This plan should entail details around each step of the translation workflow, including:

  • Source file submission
  • Translation
  • Expert review and approval
  • Desktop publishing (when applicable)
  • Client approval 

Your vendor should create a customized quality plan that is tailored to the scope of your project, your strategy and why you are localizing. It should clearly define for what the vendor and your organization are accountable. Clear definition will ensure there is no confusion about who is responsible for each piece of the quality puzzle.

Furthermore, if your vendor can streamline and automate your quality plan workflow—whether completely or just pieces of it—with technology and digital prowess, you’ll save even more time and costs by eliminating manual processes.

3. TO WHAT QUALITY STANDARDS DO YOU ADHERE?

International quality standards are continuously evolving to keep up with technology advancements and the language industry’s increasing demand for precise content. There are, however, a few ways to verify just how seriously your vendor is about quality assurance.

Understanding what certifications your vendor has is a good indication of their commitment to quality. Organizations can demonstrate quality through ISO certifications. The guidelines for these certifications were developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The ISO certifications can help transform a vendor’s quality processes into an effective system that meets and exceeds client expectations. To obtain these certifications, a vendor must go through a rigorous qualification process and perform annual audits to maintain their status. To qualify for these certifications, a vendor must demonstrate to an independent thirdparty auditor they understand client needs, meet client requirements and exceed client expectations.

Two standard ISO certifications, in particular, will signify your language vendor has a dedicated quality assurance (QA) process in place: ISO 17100:2015 Translation Services-Requirements for Translation Services, and ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management.

Also, be sure to ask your vendor to help you understand how its quality measurement model works so you can do an “apples to apples” comparison to other vendors. Even with standards in place, not all vendors are created equal. When you can understand and vet your vendor’s quality program, the better positioned you are to cultivate your own organization’s translation QA processes.

4. WHAT CHECKS AND BALANCES DO YOU HAVE IN PLACE TO ENSURE ACCURACY?

You’ll want to confirm QA processes are in place to ensure accurate translations from the start. Quality should be considered at every step of the translation process workflow. The longer you delay inserting quality metrics into the process, the more timeconsuming and costly the process can become for your organization to address any issues that are identified.

Effective quality control follows a two-pronged approach. First is the human factor—having editors and reviewers perform quality checks for accuracy. Often, an organization will opt to leverage in-country reviewers who are native to the language and location for which the content is translated. Some organization’s elect to provide their own in-country reviewers, while others will rely on vendor-provided reviewers. The value of in-country reviewers is they can flag translations that may not be localized correctly or may sound strange to a person in that region of the world.

Second is the use of translation management technology. With an automated process, you can create an audit trail of all activity to give you visibility into areas where issues may have occurred. The system is typically user-based, therefore each individual involved in the process must identify who they are by logging in with a secure username and password. Often, the technology can then flag and identify any updates, changes and modifications that have been made to the content throughout the entire process. Your vendor should be able to track this information through reports, metrics and analytics. The ability to identify the “who, what and where” of issues is critical to identifying their root cause and addressing quality concerns. Plus, the technological capabilities performing these automated tasks will only improve as your vendor invests in smart technology and content intelligence innovations—think augmented reality.

5. HOW DO YOU ACTUALLY MEASURE QUALITY?

Your vendor should assess multiple factors when evaluating the quality of translations These factors may include:

  • Accuracy: The quality of the translated text being near or true to the original source text.
  • Spelling and grammar: The quality of adherence to standard grammatical rules of the target text for a particular language.
  • Language: The quality of the culturally accepted and utilized meaning of words within the target text. 
  • Terminology: The vocabulary or technical terms used in a specific field, subject, science or art within the industry and within the organization.
  • Style: The way in which source text is translated as it relates to subjective qualities, such as expression and arrangement.

These factors may be graded with a score and be required to achieve a minimum score threshold to “pass.” As an added measure of scrutiny, you may want to find out if the vendor assesses the segment change percent of translations at the approver and translator levels. This examines the percent of changes that have been made to each segment of content. These types of measurements can also indicate if the linguists are producing accurate translations. The goal is to ensure there is not a high-percent of change.

6. WHAT IS YOUR CORRECTIVE ACTION PLAN?

When errors are identified, it is important for your vendor to have a clear corrective-action plan. Not only do you need issues quickly resolved, you also do not want the same errors to occur in future translations. Find out if your vendor has processes defined to capture and analyze issue data as well as establish steps to ensure the appropriate corrective actions are applied to resolve issues, prevent future recurrences of those issues and thus drive continuous improvement.

7. HOW DO YOU WEED OUT WEAK LINGUISTS?  

When linguists do not perform up to required standards, you must be confident your vendor will work with them to improve their skill level or stop using them on projects—and not just assign them to another client’s initiatives—as you don’t want to inherit error-prone linguists that have been shifted to you from another one of the vendor’s customers.

Ideally, vendors will use a scorecard model to evaluate content produced by individual linguists. When a less skilled linguist is identified, find out if and how the vendor works with that individual to address concerns and bring them up to an acceptable level and where they draw the line for discontinuing use of a linguist. You may also want to understand how often the vendor evaluates each linguist’s work. You’ll want to work with a vendor that performs ongoing evaluations of work from all linguists, rather than just one-time evaluations conducted when linguists are onboarded.

8. CAN WE AUDIT YOUR PROCESS?

Auditing the vendor’s translation process gives you an inside view of what measures are being taken to ensure the quality of your translations. Typically, a client audit involves visiting the vendor in person to review the translation process and the vendor’s quality management system. It may also include an assessment of IT capabilities and the vendor’s ability to keep its content secure from corruption or loss in the case of system failures. Additionally, the vendor should be able to minimize system interruptions that could impact its ability to respond to your needs or meet contractual requirements. 

Your vendor should be willing to give you complete visibility into its inner-workings. If the vendor is opposed to having you scrutinize every step in the process, it could be hiding something.

9. HOW DO YOU HELP CLIENTS IMPROVE QUALITY OF TRANSLATIONS?

Attaining a high level of translation quality begins before the linguist even starts translating your words. A knowledgeable vendor can educate you on how your organization can improve quality by:

  • Avoiding high-risk scenarios (e.g. poor reference materials, extreme timelines, multiple linguists working on a project and in-process edits) that may result in compromised quality.
  • Arming linguists with resources to educate them on your company and help them understand the context of your message.
  • Creating tools to ensure use of appropriate terminology and consistent style throughout projects.
  • Providing consulting services to help train you in translation best practices and to help set proper expectations of what will take place during the translation process.
  • Providing services to analyze existing translation memory so you can address any content inaccuracies or inconsistencies.

10. WHAT METRICS CAN YOU PROVIDE FOR OUR TRANSLATION INITIATIVES?

Knowledge is power. Having access to valuable performance metrics around your translations can help you see the big picture and spot where quality issues occur and improvement is needed. Find out if your vendor can provide you with standard reports that can be customized to your organization’s needs. The type of reports that may be valuable include:

  • Translation memory utilization and detail
  • Resource utilization and throughput 
  • Cycle time detail 
  • Project detail 
  • Cost savings through translation memory reuse
Any vendor worth their salt should have on-demand reporting that will help you track your quality program performance and overall translation program success. Advanced reporting capabilities will enable your organization to make informed business decisions and strengthen your company’s global growth.

When quality counts - you can count on Amplexor

When doing business globally, you need a reputable translation vendor you can trust to provide high-quality work because your organization’s reputation is on the line.

When it comes to consistent high quality—you can count on AMPLEXOR. We take the stress out of the translation process by ensuring superior quality of all content you need translated across all languages, formats and communication touch points.

 

About Amplexor

Amplexor Content Globalization

Through the right set of expert translation and localization services and the most advanced linguistic technology, we help you to reach your customers, partners and employees successfully, ensuring meaningful localized messages in any language. 

Learn more > 

Table of Contents

10 Questions To Ask Your Translation Vendor

Fill out the form to learn more about:
  • Asking the right questions to ensure superior quality
  • Industry-wide quality standards to be on the lookout for
  • How to spot and implement effective quality control
  • Confidently selecting a vendor that can deliver on the quality promise


     

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