I have a friend who has a son who is a very talented linguist.
When I had his work back, I had to call my friend and tell him I couldn’t in good conscience recommend his son to anyone.
‘But, he’s brilliant!’
I agreed – he was brilliant.
‘So what’s the problem?’
‘Simple,’ I said. ‘Quality control.’
High quality translation is not simply roaring through a passage and spitting it back out in a target language. Or, better said, that is the most bare-bones, basic idea behind document translation: Take sentences and render them in another language. But for it to be a truly professional translation, there has to be a very heavy emphasis on the quality of the work. For that, you need a QA Checklist.
Provided either by the client or yourself, a QA Checklist is simply a list of things to check once the grunt work of a translation is finished. The QA Checklist makes sure you adhere to whatever style you’ve been given, that you’re both internally consistent within the document and consistent with related documents that have been translated previously, and that you’ve followed best practices throughout.
For example, the usual things you’ll find on a QA Checklist include:
Spellcheck: This might seem obvious, but it gets forgotten if it’s not on the checklist, and people are always amazed at how many basic spelling errors they make while working.
Glossary: Clients often give us lists of words they wish used instead of alternatives. If one has been supplied, make sure it’s been used throughout.
Consistency: This covers a lot of ground. You want to make sure you’ve made the same decisions throughout the piece regarding tone, vocabulary, tense, proper name conventions, and grammar – and if the piece is part of a larger project that it’s backwards-consistent as well.
Your list may be much longer – these are just the basics.
Reasons for the List
You might think that being an experienced professional most of these things are done without having to think about them, and generally you’re right. But even the best translators can lose sight of consistency issues, sometimes, or make typos without realising it. More importantly, though, you have to remember that many translation projects are worked on by a variety of people. You might have a small portion of a much larger project with global scope – having a QA Checklist ensures that everyone is one the same page!