by Nemo’s great uncle

The need for translation services is an ever-growing one in the business world, with the top 15 translation agencies alone turning over some 1.5 billion USD annually. With international trade constantly on the increase and barriers falling all the time, the demand can only grow greater as companies, institutions and individuals seek to communicate the message of their products or services to a worldwide market.

For a professional translation agency, quality control is paramount. The agency should have a standard workflow in place which assumes that no translator is perfect, that no proof-reader is infallible and that the only way to assure quality is by having multiple stages of checking and quality control in place.

Not every translation agency or outsourcer is ready to embark on the process of achieving ISO 9001 compliance, but every translation service provider should have a basic system of quality control.

The simple 9 steps outlined below show the typical workflow used by a real-life translation company. This type of process is often referred to in the industry as TEP – translation, editing and proofreading. This workflow is by no means set in stone and can and should be adapted for different situations. It has also been somewhat simplified. But it does show some of the fundamental steps that every translation project should follow in the quest for the highest possible standards in translation.

The client sends the agency new foreign language materials for translation into the target language
Terms are agreed with the client – in advance! This is absolutely essential in order to manage expectations and avoid potential misunderstandings
A translator is allocated to the job (a native speaker of the target language – always, without exception!)
The translator carries out a first draft translation from the source to the target – this first version is never sent to the client
The first draft translation is sent to a proofreader for comparison checking and proofing – once again this must be a native speaker, though a native of the foreign language may be consulted regarding any doubts as to the meaning of the source text
Draft 2 is sent to a senior editor for more editing, often without reference to the original source text
(Optional but desirable) Draft 3 is sent to the client along with any outstanding queries – the client is always best-placed to clarify matters regarding the text that are specific to their industry-field etc.
Client responses are integrated into the final draft by the senior editor
The final version of the translation is sent to the client

As can be seen from these simple steps, there is more to translation than ‘just’ translation. This process is quite involved, requires the work of several quality professionals, and cannot be done without certain expense, both in financial terms and in terms of time.

But anything less than this is a shortcut, a sure-fire route to errors in translation that could prove far more costly. If translation quality is to be assured, translation professionals and their clients should require nothing less than the standards outlined above, and should in the long term be aiming for even more.

Leave a comment