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A Unified Theory of Quality Assurance with Walery Tichonow

Just as there are (at least) two sides to every story, there are three perspectives on quality assurance – ours, the client’s, and that of our freelance partners. We talked to Language Lead Walery Tichonow to learn about the part he plays in bringing those perspectives together.

What is your story with Argos so far?

Walery Tichonow: My story with Argos has been going on for almost 15 years. I joined the company as a proofreader for Russian language projects such a long time ago that I remember Argos being scattered across several different locations in Krakow. I saw the business processes and my role gradually change. Now I’m a language lead — the final port of call for all quality-related issues.

Can you tell us a bit about the quality assurance process? Where does it start and where does it end?

WT: I’d say it definitely starts well before it gets to a QA specialist and even before we as a company receive a translation package from one of our clients. It would not be an exaggeration to say that it starts at the point of sale, where we should already know whether we can ensure adequate quality in a defined amount of time.

It continues with good intra-company collaboration – our project managers are responsible for finding the best available human resources (translators, reviewers, DTP specialists, and of course language leads), assigning the appropriate tasks, and facilitating cooperation between all these people.

The whole process ends with the quality assurance step per se, when we as the linguistic quality and innovation department (LIQUID) make sure that the return packages we send to the clients are free from spelling and punctuation mistakes and follow all obligatory references.

How would you define a high-quality translation?

WT: It should be free from errors (including mistranslations and unwarranted omissions), idiomatic, compliant with the client’s guidelines, and clear to the target audience.

How does your work contribute to the quality of the translator’s and reviewer’s performance?

WT: My understanding is that raising awareness of each other’s jobs in the whole quality assurance process is invaluable for improving the performance of all contributors. For example, at the source review stage we as quality assurance specialists should try to understand the translators’ needs.

One of my favorite examples of what can happen if we don’t do this is a story from the game development branch. Translators received the phrase “Hit the tank” and were confused, as the game itself and even screenshots were of top secret nature and nobody knew if the players were supposed to destroy an armored machine with a bazooka or use a bat to knock a treasure out of a bin. The translation was heavily dependent on the missing data, but the customer could not even understand what went wrong, as the task was submitted to professionals who had the full text!

With regard to our job, we as QA specialists should try to estimate which parts of the source text could be vague for the translators we work with and do our best to make everything clear, trying at the same time not to overload our instructions with details that are evident to every competent specialist in the industry – people are understandably reluctant to read guidelines that are twice as long as the project itself. This is a two-way street, however.

When translators and reviewers have general insight into our job, it contributes to a better mutual understanding. For example, if our partners know that some technical checks are done by non-natives, they start to look at their comments from this perspective. I used to cite as an example an e-mail that I once received from Japan with a query about why the word that had to be translated into English as “person” according to the glossary provided became “people” in the target text in plural. The answer seemed to be evident to every English speaker, but from a non-native point of view it wasn’t so obvious.

This is especially true for languages other than English – explaining, for example, contextual glossary inconsistencies in a way that is clear for people who don’t have the same linguistic competencies as you reduces the number of situations when they should get back to you with such “strange” questions and helps us concentrate on our main job.

What do you think is the most rewarding aspect of your role?

WT: I think it’s the possibility of eliminating the fossilized errors that we as a department have fought against for a long period of time. This is particularly true of projects with complicated requirements that can’t be checked automatically. And of course it’s a comfort to know that we promote mutual understanding among people across the world — at a high level of quality and without errors!

Last month we got the details about a brand-new quality role at Argos. Click here in case you missed it.

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