The Quest for ‘Quality’

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 By Menda Kumudini 

The history of quality is centuries old when craftsmen began organizing into unions called guilds, in the late 13th century!  

According to ‘Business Dictionary’, quality can be defined as “the totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bears its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs.”

In general quality has a practical interpretation as fitness for purpose. Quality isn’t just about profits and loss or defeating the competitor. It’s all about meeting the very basics of customer expectations, delivering what is promised and safety. 

Quality is a perceptual, conditional, and subjective attribute to certain extend and may be understood differently by different people.’ Therefore, it can be an ambiguous concept because what one might see as quality someone else may not. Hence, the need and purpose of quality standards is crucial.
During Industrial Revolution, early quality management systems were used as standards that controlled product and process outcomes. As more people had to work together to produce results and production quantities increase, best practices were required to ensure quality results.Eventually, best practices for controlling product and process outcomes were established and documented. These documented best practices turned into standard practices for quality management systems.

Quality became significantly important during World War II, for example, when bullets made in one state had to work with rifles made in another. The armed forces initially inspected practically each and every unit of product. To make the process easier without compromising safety, the military began to use quality techniques of sampling for inspection, aided by the publication of military-specification standards and training courses in Walter Shewhart’s statistical process control techniques.

Like any supplier of goods or service, a translator potentially bears ethical and legal obligations toward his client. With the language industry going global, these standards turned out to be of significant importance. Therefore, for the protection of both parties, standards have been developed which clearly spell out their mutual obligations.  The increasing interest in quality management has given rise to the specific quality standards for translation services. Initially the quality standards for translation were developed in conjunction with industrial quality standards but with the growing need for the better quality in the field of translation, a dedicated set of translation quality standards has been developed.

To have the comprehensive understanding of various standards and when they have evolved , a very comprehensive  table  was  designed by Dr. Jiri Stajeskal  from American Translator Association in the year 2006, which is self explanatory and very relevant to the present time also.
Heading the list of these standards mentioned in the table is, DIN 2345 which was established in the year 1998 by the German institute for standardization, comprises of 5 different condition to conclude the contract between the translator and clients. The client is responsible for the linguistic and technical correctness of the original text. The client chooses the translator who according to him adheres to the dead line, technically more competent and has access to the Internet or the Translation Memory Program. The contract is drawn between the client and the translator having agreed upon deadline, provision of any other additional services and terminology from client’s side, target text and proof reading by the translator.

European quality standard like German DIN 2345, Austrian   standard ONORM D1201 evolved in 2000, the Italian UNI 10547 disappeared in the favour of the European EN 15038. It nearly superseded some 30 regional standards previously operated by member countries of the European Committee for Standardization (CEN).
In Europe alone the market for translation services is estimated to be worth 5-6 billion therefore in the year 2006 a very effective and popular European Standard came in the field and many translation companies had quickly become EN 15038 certified to prove the high quality of their services.  The method of quality assurance provided by EN 15038 emphasizes more on the quality of the management then the translation. In other word, this standard describes a whole set of actions aimed at achieving the quality!
 Followed by this was Chinese standard GB 19363.1 came in to practice in the year 2004.Another popular standard which came in picture in 2006 was ASTM 2575 standard originated by USA. This standard set forth the principles for analysis of translation quality which are used in setting terms and conditions for work on specific projects and to facilitate better mutual understanding between the client and the translator or the service providing agency. It lists the requirements for translation quality, but does not provide recommendations on how to achieve it, because, according to the standard, these are very project-specific. Essentially, the standard recommends the points of discussion the client and the provider must have before starting the translation project.

Canadian standards 2008, which was much more improved version of standard EN 15038, developed by the Canadian General Standards Board and approved by the Standards Council of Canada. The standard is applicable to organizations as well as individual translators and does not apply to interpreting or terminology services.
 In the year 2015, standard ISO came in the market. This standard is based on a number of quality management principles keeping customer strongly in focus, the motivation and implication of top management, the process approach and continual improvement.  This standard ensures that customers get consistent, good quality products and services, which in turn brings many business benefits.
I would like to conclude by saying that the quest for ‘Quality” has given rise to various quality standards significantly helping in harmonisation, safer products and greater fit-for-purpose solutions to the market place. There is, however, a dispute within the translation industry that, while not doing any actual harm, an over-reliance on such standards can give an unreal sense of security.  Just by blindly following translation standards quality translation is not guaranteed. Standards do not provide real assurance regarding translation quality and the quality in translation can be achieved by focusing more on providing on-going training and feedback to translators.

Key words: Quality, Standards, Translation, Client, Europe, Management, Purpose



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