Translation Quality Assurance

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Read almost any translation industry website and you will read claims about translation quality. Many translation companies (us included) have an ISO: 9001 based translation quality assurance system. So what differentiates us as a quality translation services provider?

Getting it right first time:

We pay a lot of attention to using the best translators. Its always easier to tweak a good piece of work when undertaking translation quality assurance, than it is to rectify errors. We are doing a proofreading job at the moment which is proving a bit of a nightmare. The underlying issue is that the original work (not ours) is not of good quality. Despite our proofreader having substantial sector specific experience, it is proving very difficult to eradicate all the previous mistakes.

Some translation companies start with poor translation, or even machine generated translation. They hope to speed up the process and make it cheaper. There will still be a quality outcome if the proofreader is good enough.However, the time and cost required are usually not worth it.

There are several fundamental flaws with this premise of start poor and improve:

  • It is always easier to improve a good text. It is usually quicker and easier to start again than to work through a long error list.
  • Things like word order can be a nightmare. A machine will follow the source language word order more often than not.
  • There will be wrong translation, often with comical errors which a human translator would never make.

This can give a proofreader much more work to sort out the mess, than if they were undertaking a new translation.


Unfortunately, despite claims to the contrary by some of our competitors, translation is not a science, and perfection does not exist. Even with supposedly consistent wording like a legal hazard warning, two translators working independently could produce a different result. Some areas of translation are much more prone to this, for example marketing texts can have style and tone of voice issues where there could be quite a diversity of “good” translation, and matching the client’s preferred style and tone can take a lot of work.

Translation errors:

all translators make mistakes, even with work which has been checked a multiple number of times the occasional error can slip through. We don’t claim that translations are completely error free, what we do claim, is that translators will exercise due diligence in doing a professional job, and if things go wrong, we will work very hard to put them right.

Teamwork and translation quality assurance:

The more we understand our clients, and the closer we work together, the better the translation result will be. Don’t be surprised if we ask for clarification of issues regarding the source text. If the text is unclear in the original language, then the translation won’t be better. Often product pictures or illustrations, or other background information, can be invaluable to the translation team.

Client preference:

Sometimes clients want preferential changes to a document. The translation isn’t “wrong” as such, but the client prefers particular terminology, style or choice of words. When proofreading ourselves, we always ask proofreaders not to make preferential changes. Their task is to look for errors in the translation. However, if you the client have particular preferences, we want to respect and include them.

The danger here is that you can get into a game of “guess”. A new client sends a piece of work without any background or reference material. The translation company takes the job in good faith, and delivers the work. However, the client then comes back with lots of preferential changes. Do you have existing work, or reference material? Maybe you have a style guide for the specific target language. We need this material! Having the correct reference material makes the process much easier for both parties.

Our approach to translation quality assurance:

Quality is a big issue with translation. Our approach is to work closely with clients. We need to understand your products and services, in order to deliver quality translation. We choose the best translators to lead on a project. Our view is that it is always easier to tweak something of quality, than to improve something which is poor.

As one of our multi-national clients put it “Better Languages aren’t just a middle-man, they are a service, and that it the kind of translation company we need”.