QA is not the enemy (but it might be a translator’s nightmare)
Blog post by Elvira.
Let’s have a quick talk about the QA process. The why, the how, and the how to reply to some of the issues.
Well, one aim is making sure the translation looks like it was done by no more than one translator, even if it’s been three of them working on the same project, simultaneously or not. Another is ISO certification. A good LSP will know that their ISO certification is more of a tool to attract clients and adjust their processes to the actual translation process. Some think it should be similar to a robotic assembly line and drive us insane, sometimes.
There are three basic steps: translation, review and (machine) QA. There are cases when the process includes additional steps, such as backtranslation, when it is important that the exactly same message is conveyed to the end-user of the translation. In an ideal world, you will have or create a translation memory, term base and style guide.
How to reply?
It very much depends on the step you have to reply to.
Translation issues (you’re the reviewer): do not, under any circumstances, make preferential changes unless you improve the final result. If you must do so, either for consistency or clarity, do explain in a comment. Also, take the time to explain the same in an e-mail to the PM. And, when it comes back to bite you in the keyboard, give those explanations again. While we wish it wasn’t, the PM-to-QA department communication is, sometimes, less than ideal and we end up giving the same explanation umpteen times (while facepalming and hairpulling).
Review issues (you’re the translator): whenever changes you don’t agree with were made, make it as short as possible (comment with ‘preferential change’, and that should be enough), unless an explanation is required. If that’s the case, remember that, most often than not, the PM or QA person do not speak, nor understand your target language and keep it short and clear.
Machine QA (you’re either the translator or the reviewer): be patient. Machine QA is only as good as the CAT tool, the translation memory and the term base are. Don’t take it personally and do explain false positives (such as segments containing numbers, brand names, addresses the QA tool will mark as untranslated). If the translation memory is less than ideal, do say so and explain why. With any luck, your comments might be considered by the end-client, who might be the one who insists on using their previous, less than stellar translations. Same goes for term bases: some might not recognize nouns or adjectives except for their nominative singular, some only include one translation of a term and mark any other correct translation as wrong.
Yes, this is the bad and the ugly of the QA processes. However, if done properly, QA is your best friend and will save you from inconsistencies, terminology errors and other problems. That’s the good of it. We might not manage to educate all of our clients, but if some consider our polite replies, that’s a step ahead. If a grumpy middle-aged translator like me can (in most cases), you can, too.