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Four Ways to Drive Quality in Legal Translations

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Legal translations possess a range of pretty distinct challenges. They require an extremely high level of industry knowledge, legal expertise in at least two countries and the ability to deliver within a painfully short timeframe.

The consequences of poor-quality translation are also far greater than in most industries. When a missing comma can change the entire meaning of a legal clause, it’s essential that your language service provider has the best-fit quality tools and processes to make sure everything is in the right place.

So, what tools are commonly used? And how do you know if your provider is using them properly? We’ve taken a look at the different ways LSPs ensure high-quality legal translation, along with some suggested questions you can ask about their processes to make sure you’re getting what you need.

1. Legal translation recruitment and monitoring

Being able to speak the language does not make for a competent legal translator, so how do you know your LSP’s recruitment process is finding the best talent? Translating a contract requires different skills and experience than translating a patent, so make sure your LSP has the right people for your job. Here are a few questions you can ask:

  • How do you check the qualifications, certifications and training backgrounds of new translators?
  • Do you use sworn translators where necessary?
  • Do you have new recruits perform test translations, and are they reviewed by experienced translators?
  • How closely are translators monitored for performance?
  • How is feedback provided?

An LSP worth its salt will be able to reassure you that it fully vets new translators’ backgrounds, qualifications and abilities. It should also have robust monitoring systems in place to ensure all translators—new and experienced—have another pair of eyes reviewing their work.

2. A quality assurance process for legal translations

Each job should have quality steps built in. Quality assurance should start with your LSP providing specific training on your requirements to the project’s translators and proofreaders. A good provider will then have QA steps integrated into the production process, including real-time reviews by subject matter experts, feedback implementation and quality ratings.

Finally, the project manager should conduct a review to check the layout and ensure the project is complete.

3. Translation technology

There are several components of major computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools that are essential to ensuring consistency and quality of legal translations.

Translation memory software

This is a database containing source text and matching translated segments that compares new text with what is already in the database and makes suggestions to help speed up the project and keep the wording consistent. A TM tool suggests translations to the translator for each segment. If they match 100%, the translator can give them a quick review, accept them and move on. If they are only a partial (or ‘fuzzy’ match), the translator will assess the suggestion and make the necessary changes. Translation memory tools improve translator productivity and increase consistency at the same time.

Terminology management software

A terminology database allows translators to store and reuse terminology and their translations to ensure maximum consistency for their clients. With the highly specialized language used within law, this is extremely important for legal texts. A language service provider should have a dedicated terminology database for your work, which can be accessed and updated by any translator working on the project.

These tools can also extract the most common terminology (i.e. terms that appear frequently) so they can be reused consistently throughout and across projects.

If you don’t have a glossary, ask your LSP if they can help create one. Terminology management is a common process in the language industry, and sometimes LSPs even have generic legal glossaries that can be customized in collaboration with your firm.

Language quality tools

QA tools flag spelling and formatting errors in real time and can fix some things automatically, such as extra spaces. Issues that require human review will be flagged for the translator to fix.

QA tools can often be customized to reduce the number of false positives and spot client-specific issues, so the more you work with your chosen provider, the easier it will be to ensure consistency in the final product.

4. Style guides

It is entirely likely that your firm already has very specific rules for how text should be presented. Do you want currency depicted as an abbreviation or a symbol? Should job titles be translated? How are abbreviations presented? Does your firm use specific terminology or expressions?

These are all very good reasons why you should work with your language service provider to develop a style guide from the start. A strong LSP will start collecting certain requirements immediately, but it’s better to be proactive. Ask to see their base style guide and explain how you want things done differently, especially if your firm is particularly picky (e.g. no double spaces or indents). Your provider will then give it to every translator and proofreader.

Getting it right

An effective LSP should be subjecting your legal documents to some of the most comprehensive and intensive quality assurance processes in the translation industry. And for good reason: there’s a lot more than just readability riding on your content. If you’ve got a project and are wondering how you can ensure it’s in good hands, feel free to contact us today.