Quality Standards and its application in translation services

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By Sneha Karati

This article is based on the lectures (meeting) and power point presentation by Ravi Kumar, director Modlingua. All credit goes to rightful owners.

What is Quality Standard?

Standards of quality and documentation are certain basic parameters or principles which come under standardization organization followed by translators or translation service providers and organizations in order to protect the interests of both the translation provider and patron.

How it came into being

In the 90s, quality standards and professionalism was not in the psyche of people globally. As a consequence there was a mismatch of expectations between clients and service providers. This mismatch of expectations resulted in conflict between both the parties followed by unexpected demands from translators and service providers. This created the necessity of development of professional or quality standards in translation.

The Germans were the first to develop and establish such quality standards namely DIN 2345. Adopted in 1998, it was developed to meet the industrial and technical specifications for the creation of manual designs for their automotive industry. This development gained awareness and created an importance for national standards in different parts of the world. Since then there have been concentrated efforts by language professionals and service providers involved in promotion and implementation of quality standards to prepare and disseminate guidelines for quality standards in translation activities.

The basic aim is to prepare a reference guide that will help the end user get a reasonable assurance of quality as per the stipulated standards and at the same time help the translator or translation service providers attain this goal and develop professionalism in offering translation services.

How are they applicable in translation services?

The standards are prepared by an officially acknowledged standard body. They are second in "authoritativeness" to legal provision. However, they are not legally binding. As there are levels in the binding nature of law (international vs. national law, legal provisions vs. edicts, technical regulations issued by public authorities etc.) the legal authority of standards may vary considerably. And some even become law (e.g. security standards for buildings). In brief they represent a sort of collective knowledge or know-how.
Standards are created to increase efficiency of work and the quality management of standardization process. It minimizes loss and helps in further improvement of procedures.
There are two concepts that one should take care of while taking translation standardization into consideration- linguistic and non-linguistic concepts

Linguistic concepts deal with basic standards: methodology like information processing, information and documentation and terminological principles defined in ISO/TC 37 and subject standards: not just limited to product but also testing, process, service, interface and data standards.

Non linguistic concepts deal with dialogues and MOUs between client and service provider to avoid future conflicts.

Usefulness of quality standards for language professionals, translators and service providers

Today the translators have to work in a fast changing market environment. With the evolving technology at a tremendous speed more specialization is required and new qualifications have to be acquired possibly every year. Besides, customer requirements and expectations are also changing rapidly. In such scenario, quality has become an indispensable trait of translation. By quality, the customer expects correct form and content, to be brief.

However expectations are not one sided and the translator too is influenced by standardization at his/her work environment. When it comes to standards concerning terminology and translation, the general opinion still prevails that "language cannot be standardized" as most written language is already highly standardized in the meaning of linguistic norms. In many written languages, language usage from the lexicon and orthography to grammar is highly 'prescribed' because today's languages are characterized by a tremendous evolution of their lexicon largely due to the development of terminologies in an ever increasing number of subject fields. This is the reason why technical, commercial and legal translation experts have given meaning not to terms but to concepts. Meaning, for one concept there is one term, in other words one term has one concept; there is no point of deviation. If you are defining one concept that has one term, the second, third and fourth term will be supporting term, however, one concept will have only one primary term. If one standard is defined for a particular concept then it will be used for that particular term and thus a language can be developed into a standardized form. This is the reason why these concepts are applied in terminology method.
Translation standards are directly linked to terminology management as well for a company/ industry. Variations can be minimized by putting or linking them to standards. For e.g. if a automotive industry of Canada and France agree that this particular term or concept will only use this particular word or term than it becomes a standardized term globally and if you deviate from this than it means you are making errors.

There is always a reference point needed on what on what words are to be avoided and what process needs to be followed. By incorporating quality standards one can increase efficiency of process for delivering flawless work to a client, minimize risk of bad quality, speed up work and maintain consistency.

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