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Quality in the translation industry: good enough?

It may be difficult to design a theoretical model for quality measurement but translation quality is constantly judged in today’s translation industry.

The industry includes small and large agencies, or Language Service Providers (LSPs), and commercial as well as public institutions dealing with anything from a couple to dozens of languages. Agencies and institutions hire in-house translators and interpreters and commission work to freelancers. Some freelancers work directly with clients too.

Take a moment to think where you fit into the landscape at the moment: perhaps you are a novice translator or interpreter trying to secure your first in-house position for that extra financial security, or a client who has built a relationship with a small agency, or a freelancer working with large LSPs but hoping to work directly for good clients.

How is quality understood in the industry? A large study by Joanna Drugan (2013) proves very informative. Firstly, the main question is no longer ‘is it good?’, as in the more theoretical models outlined earlier, but ‘is it good enough?’ This is to ensure that resources can be allocated effectively.

For example, imagine that you need to have a 250-word conference abstract translated. It’s an important international conference in genetics and you hope to present the findings of a five-year project. How long would you expect the translator to spend working on your abstract, with what level of attention and how much revision?

Then imagine you get a short email reply from the organisers of the conference and you need a translator to tell you if you’ve been accepted or not. Again, how much time, attention and revision do you expect, and wish to pay for? And if you’re an experienced translator, would you give the same amount of time and attention to the two jobs?

Chances are that a ‘good enough’ translation of the abstract is of infinitely higher quality than a ‘good enough’ rendition of the email. And this makes perfect sense as per industry standards.

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Working with Translation: Theory and Practice

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