Quality and Quality Assessment in Translation: Paradigms in Perspective

Quality and Quality Assessment in Translation: Paradigms in Perspective

Marcel Thelen (Maastricht School of Translation and Interpreting, The Netherlands)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5225-3.ch001
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This chapter first gives an overview of existing interpretations of the concept of quality in organizations in general, as well as in the translation industry and translator training. This is followed by a discussion of quality assessment and how this is generally dealt with in the translation industry and translator training. Various perspectives are possible, but the focus is on translation as service provision as outlined in the translation services standards EN 15038 and ISO 17100. It is argued that implementing quality assessment of translation as service provision in translator training requires the introduction into the curriculum of quality management and quality assurance by students; a so-called skills lab is an ideal environment for this. Various suggestions are then given for assessing quality management and quality assurance while taking into account the requirements of validity and reliability.
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The Concept Of Quality

In Organisations in General

In organisations in general, the concept of quality is rather fuzzy since it may have various meanings. In his ISO 9000 Quality Systems Handbook, Hoyle (2001, p. 21), for example, lists the following possible meanings:

  • A degree of excellence

  • Conformance with requirements

  • The totality of characteristics of any entity that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs

  • Fitness for use

  • Fitness for purpose

  • Freedom from defects, imperfections or contamination

  • Delighting customers

These meanings cover two perspectives: (1) inherent characteristics and (2) conformance with requirements, needs or expectations. The meaning “freedom from defects, imperfections or contamination” focuses on inherent characteristics, whereas the meaning “conformance with requirements” clearly points towards the perspective of conformance with requirements, needs or expectations. The other meanings seem to cover both perspectives.

It is perhaps for this reason that Hoyle (2001) proposes a combination of the two perspectives in an overall and uniform definition of quality as

… the degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfils a need or expectation that is stated, generally implied or obligator (Hoyle, 2001, p. 22).

where “stated” means stipulated in a document, and “generally implied” custom or common practice, whereas “obligatory” is not further explained and left to speak for itself (cf. ISO 9000:2005(E), p. 9).

“Characteristics” are further defined as

… inherent1 characteristics … of a product …, process …, or system … related to a requirement … (ISO, 2005, p. 12)

In this way, the definition relates to both the perspective of inherent characteristics and of conformance with requirements. Although not stated explicitly, the above two definitions (of quality and characteristics) also apply to (the provision of) services. Obviously, the characteristics of a product, process and system may well differ from one another, and, in the case of a product, the characteristics of e.g. a computer will differ from those of a candle, or a translation. In case the product is a translation, these characteristics will be linguistic (proper, appropriate and adequate language use in the target text) and the degree of the required type of equivalence between the source text and the target text.

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