Viewing posts categorised under: Testing and QA
How to Root Out Translation Errors

How to Root Out Translation Errors

by Translation Guy on February 3, 2016

Translation errors can be deadly, costly and/or downright embarrassing. So what can you do to prevent them? As we’re fond of saying, “Many eyes keep danger at bay.” Translation review is an integral piece of the quality assurance process. Here at Responsive Translation we provide multiple rounds of review and reconciliation from qualified linguists to ensure that a translation is, in the immortal words of Goldilocks, “Just right.” But what types of errors are reviewers looking to root out of a translation?  

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What Does ISO Certification Have to Do with Translation?

What Does ISO Certification Have to Do with Translation?

by Translation Guy on July 22, 2015

When it comes to producing translations of the highest standard, process and quality go hand in hand. I mean, have you ever seen quality work come from a flawed process? I haven't.  

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Clown Words

by Translation Guy on March 22, 2013

Cloudwords ( is an easy to use translation management application designed to enable brand name global companies such as American Airlines force more cost efficiency with their translation vendors (internally or externally) and allow them to centrally manage the entire process in the cloud. This is a direct quote from an email they sent me today because I was up on their site a few weeks ago, another sad chapter in my endless search for a translation project management system that actually makes the job easier for my project managers. No luck so far. But I have found plenty of kludgy time sinks.  And Cloudwords stands out, even in that lineup of IT pathos. It’s more like a parody rather than a software program – a kind of Dumb and Dumber version of translation best practice. The premise is that anyone can be a translation project manager.  Simply by following a series of basic steps, even someone who doesn’t know anything about translation can run their own translation project! If only it was so easy. If only it didn’t take months of training. If only they didn’t have to be whip smart and have the kind of personality that finds pleasure in service and calmness in the face of customer fire.  If only each project or client didn’t require a unique solution almost every time out. Then it would be easy. The mechanics of setting up a project take but a few moments of a project manager’s day. Larger organizations than mine will likely be able to better harvest the minor efficiencies of project automation tools, but not me.  And this is good, because then I will more easily win away their customers with a superior service based on customized workflows and careful attention to client requirements. But the big selling point behind these cloud solutions is that it automates the linguist selection process. This is accomplished by allowing project managers to select a linguist from a large pool of candidates who will be “forced” to offer more competitive pricing. The theory is: build a better barrel-bottom scraper and the world will beat a path to your door. Pooling is the method used to harvest a catch of translators from the global carp pond for a few breadcrumbs. Selection is, of course, skewed to amateurs and incompetence, a small price to pay for lower prices, I suppose.  Having flown on American Airlines, I can understand why they might adopt such a strategy, but for best practice, that carp pond model is like fishing with dynamite. Fishing expeditions are useless for the kind of quality we are trying to achieve. We use the lobster tank method. Project managers and interested clients want to choose that particular two-pounder that will be the juiciest for the particular job. And once we find the correct crustacean, the search is over. It can be a lifetime gig, at least until they screw up and get dumped in a pot. But I say that with affection and gratitude to all the hard-working linguists who make our clients so happy. Cloudwords and programs of that ilk all reveal the programmer’s secret vice.  In their hearts, they believe that anyone who can’t code is a moron.  And that’s probably true. But we’re not the only ones.

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The FBI Fails Cultural Sensitivity Training

by Translation Guy on April 18, 2012

Muslims are violent and crazy, Asians don’t like to shake hands, and similar nuggets of cultural wisdom can be found in FBI PowerPoints, according to FBI training materials released in a six-month review of how G-men were trained, writes Spencer Ackerman of Danger Room. “It’s stunning that these things could be said to members of our FBI in training,” says Sen. Richard Durbin, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee overseeing the FBI. Here’s his letter. FBI spokesman Christopher Allen says, “Of the approximately 160,000 pages of training material reviewed, less than one percent contained factually inaccurate or imprecise information or used stereotypes,” Allen told Danger Room. “But mistakes were made, and we are correcting those mistakes. Through this review process, we recognized that we lacked a centralized process to ensure all training materials were reviewed and validated. We are addressing that gap so this does not happen again.” Bad PR, and really bad QA. Officials have mandated that FBI training material “must be reviewed carefully by supervisory-level personnel possessing an appropriate level of understanding of relevant topics.” So that means before they weren’t doing that. Which probably means that the content was being written ad hoc. Big QA fail. This had all come about because of Ackerman’s earlier report concerning FBI training documents and the guidance they gave on working with different ethnic groups. “A sample of that possibly harmful training comes from a document on “Establishing Relationships,” which instructed: “Never attempt to shake hands with an Asian. Never stare at an Asian. Never try to speak to an Arab female prior to approaching the Arab male first.” Another document, titled “Control and Temper,” contrasted the “Western Mind” with that of the “Arab World.” The “Western” mind possessed an “even keel” and “outbursts” of emotion were “exceptional.” In the “Arab World,” by contrast, “Outburst and Loss of Control [is] Expected.” A bullet point below asked, “What’s wrong with frequent Jekyll & Hyde temper tantrums?” I’m no Arab expert, but the Asian stuff is pretty far off the mark, political correctness aside, (as if that were possible). Apart from any ethnic aspersions, this kind of content reeks of “amateur' as badly as last week's research at the body farm. I don’t mean that the agent or expert who wrote that doesn’t know his job, but that the training task wasn’t taken seriously enough to do it correctly with professional training support, to help the author turn his knowledge into content that was an asset rather than a liability to the organization. Security makes for silos, so maybe that’s the reason why the FBI has resisted taking it through a more professional, centralized process.  That and the money. Which comes at the price of this kind of press. To what degree do these content errors affect the way the FBI behaves in the field?

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My Translation, Right or Wrong

by Translation Guy on July 4, 2011

I wrote this for one of my clients the other day.  Well, a lot of it, anyway.  I've cranked it up for you translation workflow freaks. The translation has been completed. How do you know if it’s OK? You can… Assume that it is correct. Unless you can’t assume, because of compliance or QA requirement. Ask a friend or office mate who speaks the language if it is correct, assuming that they are qualified to do the job. Unless you can’t assume. Use a pre-qualified third party or qualify your own. Use a language service provider to:

  • Do a parallel translation
  • Do a back translation
  • Do additional edit(s)
Use a target language copywriter to change meaning, to adapt, transcreate, and localize for audience-specific understanding. You can have a physician (for life sciences) or other technical resource check the translation to make sure it is OK. Or you can test end-user understanding and impressions using surveys and focus groups. Harmonization Is Key Whether the quality assurance strategy includes back translation or parallel translation or edit, the harmonization of the consensus document is where accuracy, balance and consistency emerge. The key to success is an open, collaborative process. As the saying goes, "Many eyes keep danger at bay." But whatever you do, it’s all got to come together in the end.  All those translation assets have to be updated with editorial and validation corrections. Getting everyone on the same page is important to get to the best result. That best result is then the template for future efforts. So style guides may get re-styled, or term bases get de-debased, or translation memories recollected, so mistakes aren't repeated. This is the backbone of our ISO 9001 process, which forces us to redefine our whole approach to business. . . we have to keep getting better. And speaking of which, I am proud as punch to boast on one of my life's greatest accomplishments. Every member of this organization has been working on this quality piece for years, and there's been no shortage of heartache. I have leaned hard on this, as have all my companions. And we've done it. For the last three months, 100% of our clients reported that they would enthusiastically recommend our service to friends and colleagues. This means our 2011 2Q NPS score was perfect. We are the best in the business.

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Customer Service Attitude

by Translation Guy on April 23, 2009

We are super-proud and super-serious about being the top rated language service provider for customer satisfaction.

And it's not just good business: it's good sanity. Because when you're in the customer service business, customer satisfaction is very satisfying. And an unhappy client can really spoil your day.

Accordingly, we survey each client after every job, as part of our ISO 9001 process of continuous quality improvement. If we get a score lower than 7 out of 10, we automatically begin an ISO investigation. Cut to that time-honored stock footage of hook and ladder trucks squealing around corners, squad cars racing down the street, regular workflow pulled to the side of the street. Theatrical? Yes. But a great way to remind everyone what we are trying to accomplish and what is the key differentiator from all the translation scum out there.

So we got a ranking of 7.2 (not sure from where that .2 came) today from a client whose validator said we didn't know their terminology. The client sent us their changes, which we compared to the translation we had delivered, marked the changes and sent it on the translator for review.

The translator came back with a list of all the errors in the client's edit, along with lots of emoticons and snide remarks about the amateurish quality of the client changes. And you know what, she's probably right. I mean there are only so many ways you can misspell mirror in French. Made my blood boil. If the client could produce their own great French translation, why would they call us?

The attitude oozing from the translator’s response was the real issue. The conversation went something like this. "I cant' show this to the client. What's up with this attitude?"
Another project manager says, "I don't like to use her. She's sloppy."

"Then WHY are we using her?"

"She was next on the list."

"Do you want to work with her on this?"

"We'll get someone else on it, and take her off the list."

When I had a bad attitude, I used to hate it when people told me I had a bad attitude. That pose of ironic cynicism that works so well with a clove cigarette is no match for eager-beaver enthusiasm when it comes to a deliverable.
Good riddance.

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ISO-metrics Part 1.

by Translation Guy on March 25, 2009

Our decision to become ISO 9001-certified was not reached lightly. Hours of review and planning, careful cost-benefit analysis, integration with corporate strategy, all those elements were not sufficient to reach that decision. Our clients made us do it. Actually just one.

They offered guidance and encouragement, but pithy and to the point. "Either get certified, or get fired."

So to yet again butcher a quote from Boswell's Life of Johnson, "Depend upon it, sir, when a vendor knows he is to lose his client in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully."

But (and now I am completely serious) I think it’s the smartest move we ever made as a company.

So if you don’t already know what ISO is, I have anticipated your question. I quote Wikipedia:

ISO 9001:2000 Quality management systems – Requirements is intended for use in any organization which designs, develops, manufactures, installs and/or services any product or provides any form of service. It provides a number of requirements which an organization needs to fulfill if it is to achieve customer satisfaction through consistent products and services which meet customer expectations. It includes a requirement for the continual (i.e. planned) improvement of the Quality Management System.

My two favorite parts are
1. To achieve customer satisfaction.
2. Requirement for continual improvement of the Quality Management System.

I think a lot of language service providers go through the motions in order to meet client requirements or for marketing purposes. I have to admit that we began with similar thoughts. But the further we get into ISO, and the more everyone has started to own it, the more -it has transformed our way of doing business. More on this to come.

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Many eyes keep danger at bay

by Translation Guy on March 18, 2009

There is an old Navajo saying, (at least I think it's Diné Bizzad), "Many eyes keep danger at bay".

And not only is it a good way to keep coyotes off your sheep, the same is true when you want to make sure your translators are not running astray into some linguistic arroyo.

We call these translation shepherds "editors." But those editors can be a wild bunch in their own right. Because translation is a change process, and each change event introduces the possibility of further error. Proofreaders are required to ride herd on the editors. The entire process is called TEP, for translator, edit, and proof, and those many eyes are what keeps translation error at bay. Now every translation outfit claims to do TEP, and the professional ones really do. Best way to spot the bad guys is by an extra-low price.

Why the additional time and expense for TEP? Because translation can be as risky as raising livestock in the Four Corners. A single mistranslated word can cost a fortune. TEP value comes from this reduction of risk.

But sometimes, words and message are specific only to the client or context, particularly for marketing and advertising translation. And we've found that translators do not have good mind-reading medicine, no matter how many sand paintings they pour over.

We always ask our clients for existing glossaries, translation memories and other reference materials. But most of our client have neither the time nor the resources to supply reference material, or collaborate on a glossary or style guide. And while that tact can reduce error, the translation may still need a thorough going-over by a validator who knows the client business inside and out. Most often our clients do it themselves, and sometimes we provide training for the client validators or for the validator we provide.

But that's not all. It then becomes the obligation of our translation teams to watch the watchers, and to use their linguistic skills to help our clients stay on the right trail. So, to extend the acronym, a really tight translation process is TEP-Validation Review. Now we have TEP-VR, This is not required for most of the work we do, but it can be vital for other projects.

Now I know I'm apt to beat a metaphor to death, but Diné bizzad is close to my heart. It is spoken by a beautiful people in a beautiful place bounded by the four sacred mountains. I will always be grateful to my dear departed friend Conrad House for his kindness in teaching me about his language and the Navajo way.

Image of Arizona for Translation Guy - 1-800-Translate

Diné Bizzad parses reality with mind-blowing beauty. But that's a story for another day. Hagoone'.

Navajo, TEP

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Managing Language – It’s all about the words

by Translation Guy on February 27, 2009

Language Managers juggle all the aspects of getting from good to great translations. For translation super-tailored to client and end-user needs, it’s all about the words. Language Managers are all over the words even before translation begins. Projects begin with a glossary and a style guide, no matter how sketchy they may be at the beginning of the project (we have style guides with just a single line of instructions).  Language Managers then keep adding more and more wonderful words to the project, and the glossary expands, the style guide is re-styled, and our client’s collection of repeated phrases in the translation memory grows. As the project matures, the Language Manager introduces more efficiency, more consistency, and greater accuracy to the project. But above all, the Language Manager makes sure that each translated document meets client requirements for accuracy and style. So, for all these reasons, language management requires a lot of feedback, word by word...

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Translation Waters Run Deep

by Translation Guy on February 27, 2009

As translators, we hate to admit it, but translation is only part of the foreign language communication process. Language Management is the method used to make sure that the translation process delivers a well-crafted translation as quickly and inexpensively as possible. So Language Managers become the ringleaders for the entire translation show ― but they stand alone. When we provide translation services to our clients, our language managers stand aside, looking on from on high, since we don’t want them to be influenced by the translation team. So it’s not “church and state,” as the magazine ad salesman promises with a wink, but more like New York and New Jersey: side by side, but commuting back and forth. Language Managers pull all the details required for good translation from every source. It’s a lot more than just managing traffic, since herding all the translation cats takes more diplomacy than UN diplomats do. (We should know!) Really good translation management requires an experienced project manager with an intimate knowledge of client requirements, translation industry best practice, and translation language native-speaker expertise. That’s a tough bill to fill, and often tough for our clients, most of whom aren’t interested in entering the translation industry (not that I blame them). So we do it.  It takes a special breed of linguists. Some aren’t such good cat-herders, and some don’t know the ins and outs. More on language management soon. K.

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