One of the main goals of any organization that provides a good or service to customers is to ensure the quality of the product they offer in order to increase customer satisfaction – and this is no different in the translation industry. Furthermore, there are two important aspects of quality that are often deemed to be interchangeable; these are quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC). However, the reality is that they are not in fact the same; rather, one is but an aspect of the other, although both have the purpose of improving and ensuring quality. Below I will discuss the differences between the two and their application to the translation industry.
Quality assurance is the comprehensive and overall process of ensuring quality in an organization. In any organization, it involves the acquisition, training and management of qualified employees (the “humanware”) and tools (both hardware and software), as well as a process of continuous improvement that aims to update and develop these resources. In a translation company this can include, for example, a strategy to provide training and feedback to linguists as well as management of translation assets such as client translation memories, term bases and computer-assisted translation (CAT) and quality control tools. Therefore, quality assurance is a long-term, overall strategy for maintaining and improving the general quality of translations.
Quality control on the other hand differs from quality assurance in that it is a more specific, short-term procedure and is an aspect of the larger quality assurance strategy. Usually, it is understood more as a final check performed on an end product to ensure there are no flaws. In a translation company, a quality control check may also be performed on translations throughout the process and after the typical linguistic steps (translation, editing, proofreading) have been completed. This type of linguistic quality control can be performed with a special translation quality control program that is designed for this purpose. It checks for inconsistent translations, misspellings, mismatches in numbers, etc. It is unlikely that errors make it past the editing and proofreading stages, but you can never be too precautious when it comes to quality!
So, as we have seen, quality assurance and quality control sound similar and are interrelated, but they are not the same. Quality assurance is an overall process, while quality control involves a check performed on the translation before it is submitted to the client.