Just about everyone who works with texts has already used QA tools for quality assurance. At its simplest, this means running the spell checker of a word processor or DTP application in order to correct typos and spelling errors, faulty punctuation and other mistakes that may happen to even the most experienced writers. Some systems can even master grammar rules, offer improvements to the style of a text or alert the user to so-called “taboo words”. Such checks help with quality assurance, ensuring that the text is pleasant to read.
When compared to the commitment of professional translators to check the quality of their work, such tools are only the first link in a long chain of inspection procedures. Translators use special QA tools that are capable of checking a much greater variety of linguistic and formal criteria than a spelling or grammar checker could ever find by itself. The reason for using QA tools lies in the complexity of translation quality assessment: the target text must also be consistent in relation to the source text. That is why digital quality assurance comprises at least the following criteria:
Does spelling comply with the rules and have the client’s specific requirements been respected?
Do double spaces exist in the translation? Is punctuation in line with the typographic conventions of the target language? Are there any unwanted duplicates? Are there any missing brackets?
Style and consistency
Is the translation pleasant to read? Translations are good if they have nothing strange or confusing about them!
Has the terminology prescribed by the customer been used consistently?
Brands and proper names
Did the translator label protected trademarks accordingly and does the spelling of trademarks and proper names correspond exactly to the specifications for the country in which the translation is to be used?
Are the numbers that appear in the source and target sentence identical?
Has the translator adapted the number formats (e.g. decimal and thousands separators) to the conventions of the target language?
Does only one specific translation exist for different sentences in the source language?
Do multiple translations exist for the same sentence in the source language?
Character and paragraph formats
Does the target sentence contain the same formatting attributes as the source sentences, and do the source and target sentence have identical formatting codes?
Has the translator violated any limitations regarding the length of the target text? This is particularly important for localizing websites and software applications!
Did the translator forget to copy any structure tags from source to target text? (E.g. cross-references, hyperlinks, image anchors, etc.)
Most translation environments (CAT systems) feature integrated QA tools, which can check many of these criteria. And various stand-alone QA tools were developed specifically for translation processes. They are also known as Translation Quality Tools (TQT) or Quality Assurance Tools (QAT). Some examples are XBench, QA Distiller and Verifika. In 2014, a comparative research study conducted on the “Quality of Quality Assurance” with these tools revealed interesting results. Despite the many options offered by advanced TQTs, none of them is able to assess the quality of a translation as regards its inner logic and effect on the reader.
For this reason, the digital revision of a translation based on formal and linguistic criteria is always followed by at least two more revisions by “flesh and blood” reviewers: a review by the translator him/herself and a revision by a second mother-tongue translator. This fulfills the essential requirements as defined in the relevant standard, DIN EN ISO 17100. However, for difficult technical translations, it is not uncommon to conduct a technical revision as well. Medical translators in particular know that sometimes there is only a small distance between linguistic errors and medical malpractice.