Think beyond the sample translation
This year your commitment to healthcare awareness may have brought you in search of a healthcare language service provider and chances are you’re considering a “test” translation as your dependable measure for quality. In the sea of options out there, how else will you know if you are likely to get good quality in a language you are probably not a professional speaker of?
We all soon come to realize that a test translation falls far short of the hoped for guarantee. Perhaps, the “best translator” was put on the test; or maybe it was a fluke. Either way, time after time, a test translation has been the relied upon predictor for long-term quality leaving most of us wondering what happened to the perfect translator.
To put this in perspective, I recently had a linguist tested for quality by two different reviewers. One gave the linguists 68 out of a 100 and the other gave the linguist 92 out of 100.
After 15 years in localization and probably more than 3000 tests, I have come to the following two conclusions:
1. Quality is not an instant deliverable – it is a commitment built and established over time with a mixture of experience in the subject, experience with the company, and time available to do the work.
2. Quality is a partnership between client reviewer and agency linguist.
So when I look for quality in our healthcare vendor pool I place more weight on the mechanisms and framework for building and committing to quality than I do on a test translation. The top three things I look for are:
1. Do the linguists or teams look to develop healthcare specific glossaries and style guides – can they give me examples?
2. Do they monitor and track quality over a period – per month, quarter, or year? Can I see multi-term quality metrics for their teams?
3. Do they have corrective quality frameworks that ensure errors are identified and fixed systematically – can they show me change logs or updates to a sample of their language assets?
If I can establish the existence of systematic long-term quality management then I will in turn commit to supporting and growing quality in a partnership together. Together we can track number of errors and corrections, work on healthcare style guides, glossaries and translation memory assets. We can even manage and work through escalations and record the corrective activities together.
In truth, all this is significantly less work than replacing vendors or dealing with systemic quality issues once the glow of the single excellent “test” result fades. Just like every other aspect of our lives, quality is a long term partnership that only bares fruit with effort and commitment. What do you think is the best predictor of quality in a language service provider?