Quality in Translation Matters Only When There is None

Quality in Translation Matters Only When There is None

Have you noticed, that every translator, or for that matter, translation agency, company whatnot lists "highest quality" as their top priority? Like this is the only marketing message ever that they could think of.

This is not about judging it. Many people make this mistake, myself included, even though I'm pretty much aware, the "message" is useless.

The problem is, when you say "Quality" so many times, it becomes commonplace.
Nobody cares for that anymore. It's not news. Nor differentiation. It's standard. 

So, Quality, as they say, is given.

And - as one of the participants of Loc World 11 (in 2008) in Berlin - told me:

"Quality is only important when there is none".

translation quality and how to achieve it

What do you/we/they/everybody mean by that?

Everybody wants top-notch quality, and everybody assumes that this is what they are a gettin'.

  • Clients included
  • Our translation company included.
  • Translators who outsource a little to other translators - you get it - included.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, we are working with people, and people make mistakes.

Quality in #Translation Only Matters When there is None. #t9n #l10n

Click to Tweet

Who's to blame if translation quality is poor?

Couple of weeks ago, one of our best translators gave us a - in lack of better word - mediocre translation.

Lots of typos, word-by-word. If I wasn't in a good mood I'd say it was USE-LESS!

This was pretty unusual, so we had to check what had happened. As it turned out:

  • the translation was outsourced to a friend/colleague because of
    over-commiting and lack of time, and that colleague turned out to be "not so good".
  • the original translator didn't review his own colleague (rookie mistake, and borderline ignorant)

Well, this is unfortunate... but in the words of our favourite J-Lo lady: "I ain't your Momma!" (read: it's not my fucking problem).

But now it just became my problem, because  now the "circle of trust" is kind of broken. Not completely destroyed just yet, but broken. How would you ever trust that kind of translator completely again. Ever. Right?

We asked for a fix, the translator offered not to charge for the job etc. but all of that was not the point. The point was, if our PM wasn't pretty much aware that everything needs to be checked twice, it could have easily become an escalated issue with our client. That kind of behaviour is not acceptable in an industry such as translation and localization.

And if you are serious about your business, then this kind of omissions or major errors have to be put down on "paper" somehow. Documented. And of course, fixed. Avoided in the future.

What can you do to track and assure quality?

If You still use Excel to track our translations, you can put an note in the appropriate cell (I guess) and then in two weeks you either remember what you wrote, or completely forget about it. I guess the latter is in order. Unless you have really really good memory, and nothing else to worry about (like all other tasks of a translation agency owner).

Maybe You'll like this approach better:

Once the doomsday machinery of MiniTPMS is initiated, you will be able to do this:

  • You click on the current task for that particular translator, and enter a Quality Assessment Score.
  • You enter a comment on what was wrong and what you (or your PM) has done to correct it.
  • And later down the line, you might even do a real QA, you know, like in those nice Excel (ha!) spreadsheets where you can pick the error type, severity, etc etc.

But this time it's all in your system, and it stays there. It can be searched for, it can be found later, it can alert you the next time you are looking for the most suitable translator for your project.

The good thing about TPMS systems is they are like elephants: they don't forget.

#Translation Project Management Systems are like elephants: they don't forget. #Quality assessment #t9n #l10n

Click to Tweet

Fool me once, you get a negative review.

Fool me twice, you will have trouble working for me again.

Time to act like a translation company manager/owner

Sometimes it's not so easy go around and let go of people just like that. We all have stories, life happens, accidents happen.

To forgive is divine - goes the saying. And it really is. Unfortunately when the time goes to choose between putting food on your table and buying new shoes for your kids, or allowing a translator to return a poor quality work for whatever reason, there is not much to think about.

You don't want to lose a customer because your people are inadequate. And that would be all your fault. Losing the customer, I mean. Well, people's inadequacy too.

By using miniTPSM you can avoid all this frustration.

Because the system will automatically put translators with better QAS to the top of the list of possible vendors.

And that is when you can sit back kickin' and telling: "Well, bozo, you ain't no foolin' me no more." Meaning no more work for that translator. 

Life goes on, world still spins. There's translations still to be done.

Harsh? Maybe.

But YOU - as a translation company owner, manager, or project manager, or even a busy translator who sometimes gives jobs to other colleagues - you have a moral and personal OBLIGATION to get the best quality possible ever. Get it in the first run. From a good translator with good score.

I'm not saying to leave out the step of proofreading or review, call it whatever you want to call it. It's just that you should pick the best of the bests to do the translation and the review both.

Then you won't be forced to run several cycles of editing and proofreading, and you'll save your company a ton of time and money.

And you will save yourself from the embarrassment ​if the client is the one who notices that the quality was really poor.

So next time, you just pick the translator who has a better Quality Assessment Score out of the pool... and problem solved. Just make sure that pool is filled with enough good to great translators (but that's a story for another time).

Hey, I'm all about second chances, and score can be improved and people can have bad days and their cat might have died...

But what's done is done, and once it's also on your "digital paper" you can go back and say:

"Aha, this is where the mistake was made, but we can go past that point, and give this person another chance"

And that's just one piece of awesome features in miniTPMS that will help you run your Translation Agency like a Terminator.

Leave a Comment: