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Poll: When was the last time you made adjustments to your own quality assurance process?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 22:38
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May 24, 2012

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "When was the last time you made adjustments to your own quality assurance process?".

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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:38
Spanish to English
+ ...
Yesterday May 24, 2012

I had to find a USA English speaking proofreader for a project and contacted someone yesterday through a friend's recommendation. She did a really thorough job and we have agreed to collaborate on future projects.

In the past couple of months I have been collaborating with another colleague too and we both now regularly proof each other's work, as well as consulting and brainstorming terms via skype. We both find it mutually rewarding and our quality is notably improved.

[Edited at 2012-05-24 08:23 GMT]


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Oliver Lawrence  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 07:38
Partial member (2008)
Italian to English
+ ...
Recently and continually May 24, 2012

In a number of ways: e.g.
- customising various QA tools with extensive error checklists of my own devising
- writing Word macros to find certain types of mistake
- trying out text-to-speech software to read the translation out loud, to detect infelicities in the flow
- altering the sequence in which I perform the various checks to see which order is the more effective
- etc.


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Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 14:38
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
On-going collaboration with customers May 24, 2012

I've been asking a few of my larger customers what in-house methods and processes they use so that:

- I have a better idea of what they expect of their translators
- Learn more about other QA tools on the market, and
- Ensure that my processes are in-line with theirs.

I'm finding that these customers appreciate this approach -- an example of a little extra effort reaping long-term rewards.

One of them even opened up a bit and confessed that they were having problems with one particular client I am not involved with and asked for my help in troubleshooting and thinking up possible remedies. This is gradually paying off and is greasing the rails for future projects scheduled to come my way.

@Oliver
I am VERY impressed with your reply.

----------
Additional Comment
I must also add that I translate mainly technical stuff that contains lots of repetition/similarity and specifications/numbers and that requires strict consistency of terminology usage across large, multiple and potentially mind-numbing documents. This necessitates the use of some kind of software to take the load off the translator -- software that will mechanically pick up inconsistencies that slip by the eyes of a tired translator.
QA checking software would probably not be necessary nor the ideal solution for translation in other fields where more creative writing is required.

Added comment at end



[Edited at 2012-05-25 05:03 GMT]


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 07:38
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
If it ain't broke, don't fix it... May 24, 2012

Every now and then I get a checklist from one of my clients about QA.

I still have the routine I learnt when I was working in-house.

I have read other people's opinions along the way.

Which approach I take depends on the type of text - a 250-word marketing text is very different from a 10 000 word government report on the health services ... etc.

But the core principles are the same:

Check against the source for meaning.

Check terminology and consistency.

Check the target without the source for grammar, register, fluency and so on.

Check all changes against the source - have you changed the meaning?

Run a spell check (again!).

Above all, take the necessary time, take breaks and KEEP ALERT!

There are endless variations, but they all boil down to the same thing.

So no, I have not made any dramatic changes recently, and don't expect to do so in the near future.

The big problem for me is actually keeping alert and not just accepting things because they sound OK at first reading. And clients who think you can proofread several thousand words an hour are no help either!

*****
Now I have just seen Oliver Lawrence's comments - and maybe there are some good ideas there. I don't think the macros will help me much, but reading aloud is definitely one of my ploys.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose - but if that is what keeps you awake, then that is what you need to do.


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DianeGM  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:38
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Last week May 24, 2012

I find especially with instruction manuals that I can get too focused on the instructions being as clear as possible, legibility, flow, etc. and potentially miss minor errors. I was discussing this with a friend (also a translator) who suggested I read each paragraph backwards, last sentence first to allow more focus on all the other elements of the sentence and each sentence as a stand alone unit, before the final read through. Perhaps everyone else already knew that trick .... but I tried it and I am very happy with the result, it is now a fixed part of my QA.

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David Wright  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 07:38
German to English
+ ...
The last time a customer complained May 24, 2012

which I think was in the mid 1980s - I decided to buy a technical dictionary that actually corresponded with the field I was then working in (batteries) rather than use a general technical dictionary - and to get a bilingual terminology list from the client in question, which he could have given me earleir!

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Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:38
English to Spanish
+ ...
What's next, Lean Six Sigma for translation? May 24, 2012

Let me start with a true story. I worked as a senior translation project manager for Medtronic, the giant medical devices maker. A very efficient manager (my boss) was big on processes and led her group of project managers to take a short course on Six Sigma.

I learned some very interesting QA concepts about Six Sigma...which works wonders in production environment, not in a services industry such as our own. My boss was also keen on adopting translation quality standards and asked me to write up a review on the current ones. I also learned a great deal about that. Here's my take:

First, QA is about taking measurable, repeatable steps in a process and finding ways to streamline or improve said process.

Second, writing activities such as translation or proofreading can only be measured in terms of number of pages, words, hours spent writing or proofing, etc. Characteristics such as style, syntax, grammatical precision, meaning, nuance and tone are not measurable features.

Third, most translation QA efforts focus on an error-avoidance model that does next to nothing to help a translator or writer improve his/her style, terminology research skills or overall knowledge of a given topic.

Fourth, even the modest implementation of a QA process in translation is expensive and time consuming.

I think we need to abandon the assembly-line mentality of quality control, typical of factories and other product-making activities and return to the roots of our profession. Instead of “adjustments” and “quality assurance processes,” let's talk about improvements in writing, research, conciseness, use of more idiomatic expressions and so on.


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:38
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
For me, "QA" boils down to... May 24, 2012

...a simple matter of following any special instructions the client might have for an individual project (which typically are not highly detailed) and proofreading my work.

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Filipa Plant dos Santos  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 06:38
Member (2011)
Portuguese to English
Never heard of this! May 24, 2012

DianeGM wrote:

I find especially with instruction manuals that I can get too focused on the instructions being as clear as possible, legibility, flow, etc. and potentially miss minor errors. I was discussing this with a friend (also a translator) who suggested I read each paragraph backwards, last sentence first to allow more focus on all the other elements of the sentence and each sentence as a stand alone unit, before the final read through. Perhaps everyone else already knew that trick .... but I tried it and I am very happy with the result, it is now a fixed part of my QA.


But I'm going to try it!


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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:38
Member
English to French
Products, resources and assets May 24, 2012

Mario Chavez wrote:
...I think we need to abandon the assembly-line mentality of quality control, typical of factories and other product-making activities and return to the roots of our profession. Instead of “adjustments” and “quality assurance processes,” let's talk about improvements in writing, research, conciseness, use of more idiomatic expressions and so on.

Well said. Which doesn't prevent us to have our own recipes to gain in productivity and quality, such as Oliver's tricks.

As far as I understand, six sigma's goal is to divide any activity in a number of elementary actions, so that at the end of the day, any geezer could do any other geezer's job. Given the consideration from the general public about translation (do you have a real job apart from that, I speak French so I could replace you, etc.), six sigma has also crept into the translation business to impress customers, with translations referred to as products, translators as resources and TMs as assets, and big flowcharts with fancy drawings representing the translation workflow.

But ultimately, a translator who writes poorly will deliver a poor translation, whatever safeguards and QA processes you may have in store.


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Texte Style
Local time: 07:38
French to English
let's talk about improvements in writing, research, conciseness, use of idiomatic expressions May 24, 2012

Mario Chavez wrote:

I think we need to abandon the assembly-line mentality of quality control, typical of factories and other product-making activities and return to the roots of our profession. Instead of “adjustments” and “quality assurance processes,” let's talk about improvements in writing, research, conciseness, use of more idiomatic expressions and so on.


Looking forward to your next poll!

(This reminds me of the staff meetings in my days as a teacher when only the decent teachers bothered to turn up for the meetings to discuss improving our teaching methods)


Although actually while I do agree with what you said Mario, the last time I included a significant change to improve quality it was the decision to always ask the client who the translation was for and why it had to be translated, and I lifted that from... EUATC recommendations for a translation QA process

Diane, I love the idea of reading from end back, I can immediately see which jobs it will come in useful for!

[Edited at 2012-05-24 14:31 GMT]


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Simon Bruni  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:38
Member (2009)
Spanish to English
Nicely put May 24, 2012

Mario Chavez wrote:

I think we need to abandon the assembly-line mentality of quality control, typical of factories and other product-making activities and return to the roots of our profession. Instead of “adjustments” and “quality assurance processes,” let's talk about improvements in writing, research, conciseness, use of more idiomatic expressions and so on.


Amen. There are some systematic quality checks that can be done, but in the main these improve cosmetic aspects that could be sorted out by a well trained chimp. True quality comes from personal development, which is ongoing.



[Edited at 2012-05-24 17:41 GMT]


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Oliver Lawrence  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 07:38
Partial member (2008)
Italian to English
+ ...
QA tools are part of a process May 24, 2012

There are a great many aspects involved in getting a translation just right. Terminology, consistency (where appropriate), register, grammar, punctuation, natural style for the target genre, not letting the source language subtly "infect" the target, meaning, nuance, elegance, avoidance of ambiguity, avoidance of omission, etc. etc.

The process of revising and correcting a translation involves checking many many things; it is all too easy to correct two errors and introduce a new one in the process, to miss one error because we'd been focussing so much on fixing another, or to use phrasing that seems clear to us but has a double meaning that we hadn't seen. Given this level of complexity, it makes sense to strip out as many of the 'mechanical' errors as we can to leave our minds freer to find the subtler blemishes.

This is where QA tools can come in. It's absolutely not about reducing the art of translation to some kind of an exercise in factory-floor commodity manufacturing, but rather about freeing our minds up to do what they do best. QA tools can help find dangling modifiers, unintended mixing of language variants, unwanted over-influence of the source language on the target, cliché, and bad writing generally, which Mario rightly laments.

It's not either-or. Using tools doesn't make you a 'trained chimp'. It simply helps produce better work. In a real sense.

PS thank you Julian for your kind remark.


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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:38
French to English
Poetry May 25, 2012

Filipa Plant dos Santos wrote:

DianeGM wrote:

I find especially with instruction manuals that I can get too focused on the instructions being as clear as possible, legibility, flow, etc. and potentially miss minor errors. I was discussing this with a friend (also a translator) who suggested I read each paragraph backwards, last sentence first to allow more focus on all the other elements of the sentence and each sentence as a stand alone unit, before the final read through. Perhaps everyone else already knew that trick .... but I tried it and I am very happy with the result, it is now a fixed part of my QA.


But I'm going to try it!


A technique which is useful in learning too. When children have to learn poetry, verb tables and so on, you will note that the begining is usually fine, as will be the end. However, the fluffy bit is generally in the middle. If you start with the middle section, then move onto the last, the first section somehow still holds together. Taking it to bits to rebuild in this type of way, really does help!


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