How can you secure quality during a big translation project?

Translation agencies typically work with multiple translators, many of whom are freelancers. While this method of work comes with cost advantages, since it implies savings in terms of overhead costs and fixed salaries, it also comes with certain inherent risks. One of the toughest challenges faced by translation agencies is ensuring a high standard of quality in their work, particularly as they face short deadlines.

Very often, as the deadline approaches the quality checks within the agency become lax, leading to reduced customer satisfaction and reflecting poorly on the reputation of the company. It is therefore important that translation facilitators establish a set of guidelines for themselves and their translators to avoid fluctuation in the quality of output.

A few pointers to managing large scale translation projects are:

  1. Build a bank of reliable translators who can be called on to work on a variety of projects. Agencies should constantly evaluate new translators with test documents, and maintain an updated list of people who match their expected standards. This will enable them to avoid a situation where they are forced to work with a new person at the last minute.
  2. Rely on translators you have worked with in the past. Being aware of the general standard of quality of a translator’s work and his areas of weakness makes it easier. Bringing on board new translators in the middle of a project can be time-consuming since it will involve careful checking of the work and possibly repeated revisions to get it right. Having said that, if one is in a position where you have to work with new people, ensure that you ask them to send you a sample translation (similar to the actual project) and evaluate it carefully before putting them on the project.
  3. Do not compromise on the quality of a translators work. On a high volume project, if an agency desperately needs more people to pitch in, the worst thing they can do is involve a translator whose work is substandard. In such a case it is always better to be upfront with the client and request more time. The client may not be happy about the delay, but over time they will appreciate your dedication to quality.
  4. Consider the translator’s areas of expertise. While it is good to expose your team to translators to an assortment of projects, taking into account relevant areas of expertise or experience can help in the overall quality of the project. A translator who has worked on an aviation related project before will have built a level of comfort with the terms normally used for the same and will be quicker in finishing the document.
  5. Prepare a detailed Lexicon and Brief. Before handing out a project to translators – whether employees or free lancers – it is important that the agency prepare a detailed brief on the project. This needs to include a description of the contents, what area they pertain to, what region the translated document is targeted at, what tonality it needs to take. Additionally, the project manager should prepare a standard lexicon of words that need to be used across the project. This will reduce the time spent making corrections in terminology etc.
  6. Dedicate resources to specific tasks. These resources could be internal or external. A project manager to keep track of deadlines and assign work to translators. A separate team to review the finished work and conduct stringent quality checks. While spell checks are one part of the finality quality check, uniformity in terminology, tonality and comprehensiveness are essential to any project. A trained team working with a common set of guidelines is a must. They can spot discrepancies in terminology or fluctuations in grammar and highlight these to the team, thus ensuring that there is a constant improvement in the body of work generated.
  7. Take time to review the work done as a team. Periodically have team meetings to discuss the challenges faced. This is a chance for collective learning, where tough words or phrases can be discussed and common mistakes corrected. It also enables the project manager to take corrective measures in case any course correction is required.

At the end of the day, a well translated project speaks volume for the professionalism and dedication of a translator or agency and goes a long way in convincing the client to continue the working relationship.

Being a translator have you ever been a part of a huge translation assignment? How did you manage it? Or, if you have been a project manager for a big translation assignment, then what was your experience? What precautions did you take? Send us a comment and share your views with the entire community.

One thought on “How can you secure quality during a big translation project?

  1. Heba Abed, said:

    Thanks for the useful tip on how to manage a big translation project. Breaking up the project into several pieces, assigning the job specialized translators, creating glossaries, making revisions, and discussing mistakes with the translation team are among the most important tips that guarantee top translation quality standard.

    Heba Abed
    Certified English/Arabic Translator

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