//Translation Quality Evaluation – Error Categories and Severity

As we mentioned in previous posts, error categories and severity are the two dimensions used to calculate the error’s weight in any translation and hence decide whether it is useable or not. Error categories and severity differ from one standard and/or metric to another and from one company to another, however there are a lot of similarities between all of them.

The first dimension in evaluating quality is categorizing errors.
There are major error categories that are common for all types of content, while there are others that are more important for specific types of content. Below is a list of error categories and their definitions:

  • Accuracy: This is about how accurate is the translation compared to source. It measures whether the words, meanings, messages and intent were clearly conveyed into the target language. Accuracy requires real understanding of the source, so linguists are always encouraged to ask questions about the source (especially if the source has more than one meaning) in order to avoid any ambiguity in the target.
  • Terminology: Is about adhering to product or client or domain glossary. Clients may have a glossary of terms for their products/services that is translated into other languages. The glossary may include brand and/or products names and/or proper names and their translation,  transliteration, or transcription into other languages. The glossary may also be the standard translations of user interface items in software localization, and/or operating system standard translations.
  • Consistency: Is a broad concept related to ensuring that translation is consistent within the current project, with previous translations, across products and in context. It is about making sure that some source words, terms and meaning are consistently translated in the target language. Following the same style and tone is considered part of the consistency check. When abbreviations and/or acronyms are used in translations then they should be used consistently. It also includes using specific numbering and date formats consistently.
  • Spelling: It has to be correct in the target language and should follow the spelling standardized by the official language standards organization (if any) and/or official language dictionary. If there are different ways of typing specific words/characters in the target language because it is spoken in different countries/regions, then the most common spelling in the target country should be used unless the client decides on something different.
  • Completeness: This is meant to ensure that all words, terms, concepts and meaning in the source are fully conveyed in the target. For specific types of translation, it is crucial to translate every word, but for other types it is more important to translate the meanings and concepts even if some source words were skipped in the translation. It is also meant to ensure that numbers, dates and any other variables that exist in source segments are translated properly in the target. It is also meant to measure that all translatable content has been translated and no missing source text has not been translated. Adding words to the target that do not exist in the source that are not adding to the meaning or changing the meaning are considered errors.
  • Structure: This is to measure correctness of the translated sentences’ structure. Sentence structure differs from one language to the other, so translation into some languages means changing the whole sentence structure including positions of verbs, propositions, nouns, adjectives and articles (if any). Some languages require translating back to front. Part of correct translated sentence is to correctly position variables, placeholders and tags in accordance with language reading order.
  • Flow/readability: This is to evaluate ease of reading and understanding the translations for target audience profile. Although ambiguity sometimes come from the source language but it is the linguists’ role to ask for clarifications (or even editing) about the source before starting translation. If source sentence has tags or divided into different segments or contain placeholders, then linguists have to ensure they adjust the translations accordingly, or even try to adjust the source segmentation before the translation starts.
  • Formatting: This means ensuring that translated content format is as close as possible to source format, but follows the target language formatting rules and reading order. Formatting includes layout, type styles, direction, font, size, orientation, alignment, currency, numbering format and date format. Formatting is handled differently based on content file format, it can be represented by tags or physical formatting of the text.
  • Punctuation: This is also translated from source to target language. This error category is used to measure whether correct punctuation was used in translations. Full stops, commas, colons, semi colons, exclamation marks, and interrogation marks have different rules of usage in many languages—they even have different shapes. Some marks have different usage conventions in various languages. Spacing before and after punctuation marks differ from one language to another.
  • Style: Although style is sometimes not measured for specific types of content, for others it is very important. If the client has language style guides or multilingual branding guidelines, then style should be measured against those guidelines. Style also differs from one language to another and from one target audience profile to another, so it is highly recommended that linguists learn about the client’s style and tone of voice preferences before starting to translate. The level of tone and formality should be adjusted to the target audience profile. This is one of the categories that cause a lot of debates since it is related to personal taste, and sometimes stylistic changes are called preferential changes and are not counted as errors.

The second dimension is assigning a severity level to each error.
Severity levels are mainly used to represent content usability and avoidance of liability. Errors in translations that may cause legal liability against the client are critical and will stop the translated content from being published or the product/service from being shipped/launched.

Another level of severity that is assigned when errors mislead the user or block him/her from using the product/service, or provide incorrect and/or contradictory information, these types of errors are considered major and should not be allowed in translation.

The third type of error severity is described as misleading but does not stop the user from using the content, product, or service, however it still affects the user’s comprehension of content and may affect productivity.

The last type of error severity is related to errors that make the translation hard to understand and require more time to process. So, it does not affect comprehension, just the time required to read and understand.

Next week we’ll continue with the fourth installment in our series on Translation Quality Evaluation. If you missed previous posts in the series, type Translation Quality Evaluation in the search bar on this page to find them all. To speak to someone about Vocalink’s language solutions, please call us at 877.492.7754.

Toggle Sliding Bar Area