Over the years, the translation and localization industry has produced quite a few standards aimed at assessing and/or assuring the quality of translated technical documents, a uniform and comprehensive standard setting out clear requirements for any language services vendor has so far not been available. Most standards published in the 1970s and 1980s focused on issues indirectly related to the translation process itself, such as formatting and presentation (e.g. ISO 2384:1977 Documentation – Presentation of Translations).
In what follows, we briefly want to outline the contents of two standards, plus the European draft standard for translation services, we have found most useful in elaborating our own quality assurance procedures and methodology for technical translation work, namely the Italian standard UNI 10574, the German standard DIN 2345, and the draft European standard PR EN-15038
Primarily defines the requirements and procedures that providers of translation and interpretation services should implement in their daily activities. More specifically, it provides guidelines and requirements for:
- managing the production cycle (project management, production, assessments)
- the infrastructure that is at the vendor’s disposal
- selection criteria for hiring staff, and for training newly hired personnel
It is a more ambitious standard, and covers the translation services themselves, as well as the contractual framework in which they are provided, and the general working procedures that should be applied. The standard comprises five sections dealing with:
A.Source Text or Original Text.
This section establishes the responsibility of the client for providing a linguistically and technically accurate and correct source document. The translator, on the other hand, is responsible for acquiring additional information on the specific technical field, or subject matter involved (e.g. through the consultation with independent experts or, better still, with the client’s technical staff).
B.Selection of the Translator
The standard focuses on the technical competence of the translator, the observation of deadlines, and the access to appropriate reference tools, such as online and printed dictionaries, and technical tools such as translation memories and terminology management software.
C.Contract between Customer and Translation Vendor
This section basically covers the steps between the reception of the source text and the start of the translation work. A formal contract is rarely drawn up for translation services, except for very large projects. The basic agreements are generally set out in the quote or the order form, which may be signed by the customer. That document should at least contain an agreement on the deadline, and on any additional services required (DTP, terminology extraction, additional proof-reading requirements, etc.).
D.Target Text or Translated Text
In this respect, DIN 2345 specifies that the target document must meet the linguistic standards of the target language. Furthermore, the content must be true to the original text. In the absence of any specific agreement with the client, all source text fragments should be translated, including footnotes or end notes, tables, appendices, and text in figures. Specific symbols and measurements must be adapted to the target language conventions.
On this topic, the standard is quite brief, stating only that the translation should be checked for correctness of technical and terminological content, completeness, adequacy with the terms stipulated in the contract, order form, or services agreement.
The above standards are, in our opinion, the most useful standards available to the translation industry today.
PrEN-15038, a European Quality Standard for Translation Services
The work of the members of CEN/BTTF 138 Taskforce on the future “European Quality Standard for Translation Services”, which started in 2000, has already resulted in the formulation of some very useful new concepts, as evidenced in preliminary papers and comments made available to the public .Among the most important innovations to be found in the draft version of the standard, is the precise definition of the terms “revision” and “review”.
According to PR EN-15038, the “revision” of a translation should be a “comparison of the source and target texts for terminology consistency, register and style”. So revising a translation implies confronting the translated text with the original, to check whether the translation is accurate, adequate, complete, etc.
A “review”, on the other hand, is defined as a “monolingual review to assess the suitability of the final translation for the agreed purpose”. Thus, it is the act of proof-reading the translation without looking at the original document. At this stage it is assumed that all translation and language issues have been resolved, so that the “reviewer” can concentrate fully on the legibility, fluidity, and technical adequacy of the translation. The draft standard also explicitly states that both the reviser and the reviewer “should have domain competence”.
This formal definition of the steps involved in what was hitherto quite indiscriminately referred to as “editing”, “reviewing”, “proof-reading”, “revising”, “checking”,… A translation is a major step forward that can help to clearly state the expectations and requirements of both customers, and translators.
The “European Quality Standard for Translation Services” EN-15038 will be the first standard to address not only the translation process itself, but also a number of other processes that are involved in the translation supply chain, from initial project specification, over production and revision, to the final delivery to the customer, and even invoicing.
The Translation Methodology section explains how we incorporated the main concepts of the three standards discussed above, in our quality assurance procedures and translation process.
In search for a realistic, yet rigorous and practical translation methodology we have selected what we believe to be the most useful concepts set forth in the existing UNI 10574 and DIN 2345 standards, and in the European draft standard PR EN-15038, as outlined in the Translation Standards section.
These concepts have been incorporated into our Translation Methodology, outlined below.
Workflow and Service Level
A.Receipt of Translation or Quotation Request from Prospective Client, or Customer
This stage involves the examination of the request, the assessment of the technical feasibility of the project, also taking into account the deadline requested, and of course drawing-up the quote. At this stage we only contact the prospective client our customer if a specific requirement is not clear, or if we need additional information, e.g. on the availability of glossaries. In general, we will be able to make a precise estimate without needing further information.
B.Acceptance of Our Quote, Acceptance of the Translation Assignment
This is when the real work can begin. We assign an in-house translator or outside colleague to your project. It goes without saying that the translator will often be a native speaker with experience in your technical field and/or affinity with the subject matter. Additionally, any special technical or other resources that might be required are gathered, set-up, or possibly purchased.
C.Compilation of Multilingual Terminology List
This terminological database is primarily destined for internal use, to ensure the consistency of technical terms within the translated document(s), as well as in future translation projects. At this stage we may ask the customer to validate some terms that will be used in the target document. Work on the terminological level is mostly carried out in parallel with the actual translation. This is the process that ensures compliance with our quality criterion of terminological consistency.
Many customers also ask us to leverage terminology from previously translated documents, online sources, printed manuals or brochures, etc. In so far as this terminology extraction or alignment work is justified given the value of the assignment, this is carried out at no extra charge. We can however also provide terminology extraction, multilingual database compilation, alignment, and technical terminology management services independently of translation jobs.
A.First Spell Checking and “Revision”
Spell checking is an easy, but all-important step in any serious translation process. After spell checking, the translated document is now ready for the so-called “revision”. The translator revises his work, i.e. compares the source and target texts, checks the consistency of the technical terms used, checks the register of language, and addresses style issues. This is the process that ensures compliance with our quality criterion of accuracy.
B.“Review” by a Second Translator and Final Spell Checking
After the revision round, during which all specific translation and language issues are resolved, the text is passed on to another translator, who performs a “review”. This quality control step involves a monolingual review aimed at correcting errors, typos, or technical issues that the translator might have overlooked. The reviewer will also focus in particular on the legibility, and fluidity of the translation, so that it reads like a native text rather than like a translation. The review is normally carried out without the original document, and is followed by a final spell check after all corrections have been entered into the text. This process is mainly concerned with ensuring compliance with our quality criterion of legibility.
C.Delivery of the Translated Documents
After a final check to ensure all documents, text elements, text-in-figures, etc. have been translated and are adequately formatted; the translation is now ready to be sent to the customer.
D.Archiving the Source and Target Documents
The source and target texts are archived for future reference, together with the glossaries of technical terms compiled during the translation process. That way we are well (and always better) prepared for your next assignment.