Sam Berner wrote:
I would like to hear your opinions, expriences and advice on implementing specific QA tactics in your workflow processes as a freelancer.
Peter Bouillon wrote:
Filling in forms does not make a translation fluent. Teaming up translators does not guarantee a consistent writing style. Mandated vocabulary lists do not lead to elegant prose.
As a certified ISO 9001 Quality Management auditor, (and previously as a Quality Assurance Software Testing manager), I interact directly with major customers that spend enormous amounts of money to have a product delivered on time, checked, and in a usabe state based on their previously stated contractual requirements. One of the worst things is to sit in an audit where an external auditor wants to know why poor quality deliverables have been provided to them. And if they go through the process steps with a team member who cannot describe and show Step 1, Step 2, Step 3 of the team workflow, that could be very embarrassing. And if a report gets written up for their upper management with many issues flagged as high priority red items, and you and your company get tagged as a poor service provider, that does not help for further business with them, nor for other customer. And if you end up defending yourself in claims court with the customer for not having delivered per the contract, then that is not good for the image overall.
Peter Bouillon wrote:There are some that confuse quality with red tape (especially in an ISO 9xxx context).
Avoiding all of these types of situations is why my company created the Quality Management role that I fulfill. ISO 9001 (and similar standards) do not present a problem of definition of Quality. It's how you interpret and use the terms yourself.
* Quality Management is how you go about doing the tasks and delivering the product. Do you know what you are required to do, how to do it, can do it appropriately, and can show you have done it as you say you do.
* Quality Assurance is verifying and validating that the resulting product corresponds to 1) the requirements that were stated by the customer, and to 2) the internal requirements of how you create your product.
* Quality is a statement concerning the resulting product. Quality can be low, poor, average, high, excellent and can be measured by all kinds of factors.
As for redness, it is not so much ISO 9001 "red-tape" that needs to be avoided, but being careful from falling too much into the "red-pen syndrome" as described previously at:
Playing an editing role can lead to the "red pen syndrome" whereby those who have the role feel like they need to show the added-value of that role with lots of corrections. Yet, this can also often lead to "overkill" corrections in the editing process. Thus, the nit-picking aspects of stylistic correction which can just be a preference issue rather than a technical one. So "style can be subjective" as stated by others in this thread.
As for sampling 10 translators, it is not just an issue of good vs bad translation, but rather also that different people can translate "well" by using different terms, grammatical constructions and stylistic phrases which essentially say the same thing. Over the years I've seen much non-value added, red-pen syndrome editing by revisers/editors at the editing stage, just to rephrase the idea to another way of expressing the idea. This does not mean that editing is not necessary, but that editing can be subject to personal translation preference rather than objective editing criteria.
Peter Bouillon wrote:
Teaming up translators does not guarantee a consistent writing style.
Working in teams (and especially distributed teams) is not a specific requirement or focus of a Quality Management system. How you organize things is your own choice.
Sam Berner wrote:
Teaming up with translators is now a necessity, so although it might not produce a world masterpiece (not that I get the chance to translate any), it is imperative that SOME form of organization is in place before the project becomes chaos.
On the other hand, as a stand-alone unit who does repeat jobs for a large number of agencies, I also need some form of basic business organization before not only my work, but my life as well, become chaotic.
You have definitely hit on something that is key for the professional translation community to understand. The reality of the market is that if you present a bid for a tender of 500,000 words for one language pair for a set of user and service manuals and a training course as a single translator and state to the customer that it will take you 8 months to translate it, yet another group of translators teams up together to present a bid for the same cost and can do it in 2 1/2 months, and the customer needs to make their product generally available 4 months from now, guess which tender the customer will probably take. Teamwork is becoming a necessity because of rapidly increasing time-to-market cycles for all products in all sectors. And working in teams is not a natural thing to do for a group of independent translators who have all worked independently for many years on their own projects.
Who is going to gather all the customer requirements? Who is going to be the single point of contact with the customer to avoid multiple channels of inbound communication? Who is going to check that the PO arrived? Who is going to follow changing requirements and distribute them to the group? Who is going to send out reminders that section X needs to be completed by Date Y by Person 1 so that Editor 2 can check it within the set schedule. If corrections are not make online, who is going to gather the handwritten comments and ensure that they have been considered and inserted into the appropriate paragraphs, and then are reviewed for context? Who is going to take responsibility for being owner of the deliverable(s)? Who will hit the send button at the end, and verify by sending a bcc to another email account to check that the email + attachment have arrived safe and sound to an email account outside of the local area network? Who is going to chase down payment with an invoice and send the several reminders for payment for 1 week up to 3 months?
All of this requires a significant bit of organization, and as most people do things differently, it is good to have a common set of rules, guidelines, procedures and processes to work efficiently as a team.
Peter Bouillon wrote:
Filling in forms does not make a translation fluent.
A checklist with a list of all such items won't guarantee the quality of the translated sentence A from the source language into the target language. However, having that checklist can be a significant avantage to the group to ensure that 1) the internal milestones and deadlines are met, 2) the customer delivery is made on time, and 3) the team gets paid so they can put food on the table for their families and make the monthly house/apartment payment.
Also, a checklist won't kill you, but it might significantly reduce the risk from end-users or others getting killed. I worked on authored and translated user and service manuals for large expensive Caterpillar heavy-machinery. It you mistranslate the direction to turn the lever, it could result in dumping (instead of lifting) a bucket containing 50 tons of rocks and kill a person underneath. The same is true of airline cockpit information. If the information is wrongly written or translated, it can result in killing several hundred passengers + people located where the crash occurs. And if that happens, the machine manufacturer or the airline get sued for a lot of money, and the lawyers start going through the entire workflow process supply chain to see who was responsible for the mis-write or mis-translation.
So, what are some quality process measures?
1. have a customer requirements document and checklist
2. have distribution and task checklists for the team
3. make sure everybody uses spell checkers (and the same one at that)
4. ensure that "all" warnings/notices are checked for the quality of the translation one-by-one, sentence-by-sentence, even if the rest of the text or only checked by random sampling (and not check the warnings/notices at 3am in the morning if the reviser has already worked all day and night)
5. Establish input and output criteria and checklists for going from one phase to another during an entire project.
And if you are going to work in a team, then add a charge for project management, and make sure you perform that task. If the customer complains about the cost, you can justify that this ensures quality. And for each quality-enabling item that you remove, it risks reducing the quality of the final product.
There are certainly many, many more items that could be added to such a list. I'm sure that other forum members can provide valuable input.
[Edited at 2006-01-04 22:47]