If you are new to translation, you may not be familiar with steps a professional translator should take to ensure the quality of their work.
In broad strokes, here are the 7 quality assurance steps I follow for each translation project. They can vary a bit from a project to another depending on content, deadline and other factors, but that should give you a fairly clear idea:
- Assessing the project
A translator can only deliver satisfactory work if they are comfortable with the project at hand. If the content seems out of my league, I will let you know and refer you to a colleague when possible. Same if you are looking for someone who translates in a language pair I don’t cover, say French to English (I only translate into French). If your deadline is too tight to allow me to deliver my best work, we can discuss solutions and alternatives.
- Working with a glossary/style guide/reference material
Consistency is a critical aspect of translation quality. If you have existing translated materials, do share them for reference. I will also follow any industry glossaries and style guides required. In case you prefer a hands-off experience, I can of course provide my own.
- Using a computer-aided translation (CAT) tool
CAT tools are translation environments that offer a wealth of tools and features to help translators work better and, in certain cases, faster. They allow translators to type translations in without deleting the source, look up previous translations in an instant, bring up key terms that appear in source text and generate translated files that preserve the original format, among other things. In short, they help translators maintain consistency and deliver files properly formatted for production. I personally work with SDL Trados Studio 2019 for most projects. However, lots of alternatives exist.
- Manual editing/proofreading
An essential step, yet one cheap/inexperienced vendors tend to skip. A good translator should always edit and proofread their copy at least once before delivery.
Ideally, it should happen with fresh eyes: a night of sleep will help the brain process the original text, making it much easier to detect mistakes and improve the existing translation. That is why I rarely accept same-day projects, however small, unless they are truly urgent. A bit of rest can do wonders and help you see your work under a new light, come up with better wording and spot issues.
- Advanced spell checking
I run all my translations through a fantastic tool called Antidote. It’s essentially an advanced spell/grammar check tool that picks up various types of issues besides typos. For example, it can detect awkward wording, confusion between similar words, clichés, literal translations, inconsistencies and more.
- Automated QA
There are several QA tools on the market. Xbench is my pick. It automates a number of quality checks: is everything translated? Are there any inconsistencies (i.e. a same sentence translated differently or two different sentences translated the same way)? Missing tags, numbers or punctuation? In general, all those small details that can be easy for the human eye to miss. It can be a true lifesaver for technical projects.
- Final Eye
You may have heard the saying: “I do my best proofreading after I hit send.” Obviously, a professional translator can’t afford to find themselves in such a situation. So right before delivery, just an instant before pressing that Send button, I open the translated file one final time and scan through it to see if anything stands out. Knowing this is the last chance to resolve potential issues often helps see things differently. For creative works, it’s also the perfect opportunity to put a finishing touch to the most critical parts of the text.