How Have Translation Quality Standards Changed?

Anywhere you go, you will see, perhaps without even realizing it, translations of varying qualities. In public spaces, airports and tourist sites, you will see translated notices, ads and signs, just to name a few. Some are butchered attempts, for example, when you see a special line at the airport for Diplomatics rather than Diplomats. Others are harmless and funny mistakes, like this sign in China.

In the past, these translation errors could go unnoticed. Without the movement of people and goods involved our current global economy, communicating well in a foreign language was not as important. Today, however, multinational companies develop global platforms for all of their products, and this requires that technical, commercial, and legal documents translate seamlessly into multiple languages, in increasingly shorter time-spans.

So, how do translation companies balance limited time-spans when translating a document, while still delivering a high quality product, and also taking into account the client’s preferences and budget?

One factor is machine translation, which has improved dramatically, so much so, that sometimes it even comes close to the quality of a human translation. Translation companies are increasingly investing in the optimization of translation engines, the development of style guides and glossaries, and the development of quality control systems. At the same time, linguists are trained to understand how translation engines process language: grammar, syntax, and terminology so they can detect errors and focus on adding value to the translation. This new process generates a change in the way a linguist works, by focusing on adjusting a machine translation to reflect the style and the precision required by the client. The result is a more streamlined, better quality and more economical translation. Even with the technological improvements in this area, this process does not apply to all types of content and industries. It is essential to specify in advance who the audience will be and the quality expectation of a translation in order to analyze if machine translation is the best choice.

Globalization has created a much wider market for translation services with increasingly demanding quality standards. Machine translation can be a great choice to streamline translations while maintaining quality, as long as the output is reviewed by skilled translators and linguists.

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