What’s Best for You: Quality or Usability?

A term that is used very often in most industries is “quality.” But what does it mean in the translation industry? We may certainly start by discussing whether translation is a science, a craft or an art. However, regarding the former, translation cannot be considered an exact science like math or physics, as there is no exact metric we can use to determine whether a translation is correct or incorrect. For this reason, translation quality is a highly subjective matter. However, translation is also nowhere near as subjective as traditional artistic disciplines such as music, painting or literature, as there is indeed a certain level of exactness involved. Accuracy, for example, is especially relevant in technical translations of legal or engineering-related texts.

So, with such a variable definition of “quality,” how should we approach the concept of translation quality? An alternative would be to introduce the concept of and stress the importance of “usability.”

Usability refers to whether or not the translation serves its intended purpose. For example, we could contrast between the translation of a book to be published and the translation of perishable posts on social media sites during an important event, such as a political or sporting event. In order to be “usable,” the book translation will require extremely accurate translations and it must flow flawlessly in the target language, for which reason, several editing and proofreading steps in addition to translation will be required. The translation of Twitter posts, on the other hand, would not require such a thorough analysis. In order to be “usable” and relevant, they would need to be translated very quickly, on the fly, and would not require such a profound quality control phase. If these are not viralized quickly, their value would vanish upon being buried six feet under by tons of new tweets.

As we can see, defining quality is not such an easy task. It is influenced and made up of many different factors, and is extremely subjective depending on a translation’s intended use, as well as the opinion of each person. As a potential buyer of translation services, have you made up your mind about whether you should seek quality or usability? Either way, you can contact us for a free quote.