by Tuomas Kostiainen (firstname.lastname@example.org)
All modern CAT tools, such as Trados Studio, memoQ and Wordfast Pro, include a variety of quality assurance (QA) functions. Unfortunately, these functions are often underutilized by translators because they can be difficult to find (particularly if you don’t even know to look for them) or need some additional setup to be really useful. I’m hoping that after reading this article, you are motivated to take a look at this feature in your CAT tool and start using it.
Typical QA checks include checks for items like forgotten/empty/inconsistent translations, length comparison/verification, repeated words, double spaces, numbers, units, punctuation, capitalization, quotation marks, brackets, trademarks, terminology, spelling, and tags. In most tools you can also create your own checks by using regular expressions. QA checks are generally done by comparing target segments with (1) the source segment, (2) certain language/user-specific rules, or (3) an external termbase or termlist.
As you can see, these are checks that would often be too time-consuming, annoying or just downright impossible to do manually, but at the same time they are important for the quality of the translation. Here are a few tips on how to get started in utilizing this very useful feature:
1. The first hurdle is usually locating the feature and its settings in a CAT tool. Search the Help file. For example, in Trados Studio it’s called “QA Checker” (Studio has also a separate terminology verification and tag verification feature), in memoQ “Quality Assurance” and in Wordfast “Transcheck”.
2. Go through the settings and see what types of checks would be the most useful for you. You don’t have to use them all or all the time. The most useful checks often depend on the language, project and yourself.
3. Don’t get discouraged by false positives, i.e. error messages that are not real errors. Try to minimize their number by fine-tuning the settings. That makes it easier to read the QA report and see the real errors. However, you also need to learn just to skip the unnecessary error messages when reading the QA report. You cannot avoid all of them.
4. Learn the basics of regular expressions. With a little regex knowledge you can easily create very handy customized checks and search expressions.
5. If you need even more powerful QA functions or want to run checks in many different types of bilingual files (and not just in your own CAT tool’s files), you should take a look at the stand-alone QA tools, such as QA Distiller, ErrorSpy, Verifika, Okapi CheckMate and ApSIC Xbench. Not only do they allow you to check various types of translated bilingual files but you can also use them for checking translation memories. QA Distiller and ErrorSpy are very powerful tools but also more expensive and geared more towards translation agencies and project managers. Verifika is a less expensive but powerful and easy-to-use tool that is suitable for individual translators as well. Okapi CheckMate and Xbench are free tools with much more limited QA functions but support a large number of different file types.
You can find additional information about these QA and TM management tools in my ATA Conference handout which can be downloaded from here.