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Review of  Perspectives on Translation Quality

Reviewer: Daniele Russo
Book Title: Perspectives on Translation Quality
Book Author: Ilse Depraetere
Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton
Linguistic Field(s): Computational Linguistics
Issue Number: 23.2559

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EDITOR: Ilse Depraetere
TITLE: Perspectives on Translation Quality
SERIES TITLE: Text, Translation, Computational Processing
PUBLISHER: De Gruyter Mouton
YEAR: 2011

Daniele Russo, Department of English Studies, University of Milan


This book is a collection of articles on translation quality edited by Ilse
Depraetere. The authors of the contributions are both academics and industry
professionals who share their experience and expertise in their fields of
specialization. The articles are all in English, but in the Acknowledgements the
editor states that several articles were translated from French.

The edited volume is divided into four sections, and a total of eleven articles
discuss translation quality from different perspectives. More specifically, the
aim of this volume is to share insights which are training-oriented or
industry-based. This broad approach includes the quality of human translation
and machine translation, specialized translation (also called ‘pragmatic
translation’ in the volume) and literary translation, as well as translations
done by both students and professionals. The methodological approach in this
volume is based upon concrete translation evaluation contexts supported by data
analysis and hands-on experience, and the contributions can be read through a
pragmatic notion of translation in which a translated text (and hence the
evaluation thereof) must be adapted to the communicative context of use.

In the Introduction, the editor states that “there are three issues that are
important when it comes to translation: quality, quality, and quality” (p. 1),
which means that regardless of the translation theory we are pursuing, the main
objective of our research effort should be the improvement of the quality of the
translation output. Depraetere emphasizes the importance of the variety of
contributions included in the volume and its connections with current studies;
also, the editor stresses the need for building a bridge between theory and
practice and provides a gist of each paper in the volume.

Part I: “Translation quality in the translation training context”

The first article, “A global rating scale for the summative assessment of
pragmatic translation at Master’s level: an attempt to combine academic and
professional criteria”, by Anne Delizée, discusses the challenges faced by
university teachers when evaluating student translations. She presents the
evaluation model used in the Master’s degree program in Specialized Multilingual
Translation at the University of Lille 3, which is aimed at making students
aware of industry standards while giving necessary attention to the pedagogical
requirements of the training context. The goal of the model is to evaluate
pragmatic texts, i.e. technical, scientific, legal, economic, financial or
commercial texts, with the primary goal being communication. The evaluation
method combines the assessment of the translation output and the assessment of
professional performance. The rating scale is thus based on the following
criteria: linguistic skills, translation skills, discipline, linguistic skills
in the target language, professional skills, methodological skills, and
technical skills.

The second article, “Comparing formal translation evaluation and
meaning-oriented translation evaluation: or how QA tools can(not) help”, by Ilse
Depraetere and Thomas Vackier, is based on a collaborative project between the
Applied Languages Department of the University of Lille 3 and Yamagata Europe, a
service provider for translation and localization. The project employs a corpus
of Spanish into French student translations and aims to compare the scores
attributed to the students’ translations by a human evaluator (using the
assessment model presented in the previous article) with the results of an
automated formal quality check done via a computer-aided tool (QA Distiller).
The purpose of the study is to check to what extent formal translation quality
is indicative of overall quality.

The third article, “Number and gender agreement errors in student translations
from Spanish into French”, by Carmen Núñez-Lagos and Nathalie Moulard, is based
on the same corpus as the previous article and focuses on a frequent error type
-- number and gender agreement -- in Spanish to French student translations and
explains the reasons underlying the different kinds of mistakes that the authors
have identified in their corpus. In fact, number and gender errors can be very
common between “gendered” languages such as Spanish and French. This study shows
a relative unawareness of the syntactic hierarchy in noun phrases in the
trainees’ mother tongue. In order to avoid these errors, the two authors
maintain that it is necessary to raise the trainees’ awareness of the impact of
linguistics courses in a translation curriculum.

The fourth article “A Lexicogrammar approach to checking quality: looking at one
or two cases of comparative translation”, by Christopher Gledhill, shows how a
lexicogrammar approach can be used in order to check the quality of a
translation. The core of this approach is built on the basic assumptions that
each sign in the language has its own particular lexical and grammatical niche
in the language system, and empirical data, such as corpora, as well as
concordances and contextualized examples, are to be used in order to analyze the
habitual use of signs in discourse. In this sense, the lexicogrammar approach is
less demanding than other statistical approaches, and more rewarding than a
manual and unsystematic approach, as it requires the use of an on-line or
corpus-based concordancer and the ability to observe and compare typical
patterns of signs in different textual contexts.

Part II: “The evaluation of machine translation”

The fifth article, “A contrastive analysis of MT evaluation techniques”, by Ilse
Depraetere, gives a survey of methods to evaluate machine translation. Machine
translation is a technology that is more and more employed in the translation
industry, which is why there are continual attempts to search for more adequate
evaluation techniques. In this study, a corpus of 2,250 source words was
machine-translated with a rule-based system and a statistical system and the
customized output was evaluated through four techniques: human evaluation of
adequacy and fluency, automated evaluation, evaluation based on error analysis,
and evaluation based on post-editing time. The correlation and non-correlation
of the results offer new insights into these cutting-edge applications.

The sixth article, “MT evaluation based on post-editing: a proposal”, by
Nathalie De Sutter, presents a new evaluation technique of machine translation
based on post-editing time and post-editing distance. The article shows that the
time spent on correcting the mistakes of machine translation and the textual
similarity between the machine translation output and the post-edited version of
the machine translation output correlate with the general quality of the output
as assessed by human evaluators.

Part III: “Quality Assurance in the translation workflow”

The seventh article, “Quality Assurance in the translation workflow -- A
professional’s testimony”, by Nancy Matis, gives a survey of various quality
assurance processes that can apply to standard translation projects or to
software, websites, and other e-content localization projects. The author
distinguishes two main levels of quality check: linguistic quality assurance and
technical quality assurance. The choices regarding revision processes depend on
several factors, such as type of project, subject of the project, customer,
volume of the project, resources, schedule, and budget. The quality assurance
process may be very quick and general or, on the contrary, extensive and very

The eighth article, “A contrastive analysis of the automated QA tools (QA
Distiller 6.5.8, Xbench 2.8, ErrorSpy 5.0, SDL Trados 2007 QA Checker 2.0 and
SDLX 2007 SP2 QA Check)”, by Antonia Debove, Sabrina Furlan and Ilse Depraetere,
shows that quality assurance tools constitute a welcomed technique in the
translation industry, since they offer a means of performing automated checks of
the consistency, terminology, number values, tags and punctuation, and in this
way, make the reviewers’ task easier, leaving them more time to focus on
semantic errors. This contribution offers a comparison of five formal quality
evaluation tools on the basis of the most relevant features: interface and
user-friendliness, performance, and cost. Finally, the article emphasizes the
importance of integrating such tools into the translation workflow.

The ninth article, “Management of translation memory quality in the Spanish
Department of the Directorate-General for Translation of the European
Commission”, by José Luis Vega Expósito, is aimed to show, using examples from
experiences in the Department of the Directorate- General, how translation
memory management applications can contribute to terminological and
phraseological consolidation, and consequently, to the stability, clarity and
consistency of the administrative language.

Part IV: “Domain-specific quality: legal translation and literary translation”

The aim of the tenth article, “Quality issues in the field of legal
translation”, by Patricia Vanden Bulcke and Armand Héroguel, is to tackle the
issue of quality assurance in the field of legal translation. Firstly, this
contribution discusses the nature of the legal text and the role of its specific
features in translation by proposing a taxonomy of sub-genres according to
function, translation strategies and genre characteristics. After showing a
number of examples from English, Dutch, French and Spanish, the author concludes
that the translation of a legal text is bound more to comparative law analysis
than language. As soon as the legal text is defined with regard to category,
genre, and system, the translation is to align with the function that the
translated text must fulfill within the new legal context (according to Nord’s
Skopos Theory, 1997. Finally, the authors state that concrete quality criteria
for legal translation should go beyond the realm of terminology and include
other considerations such as phraseology and structure, style, and syntax which
are peculiar in legal texts.

In the last article, “The problem of self-assessment in literary translation”,
by Olivier Vanwersch-Cot, the author proposes to analyze the process of
self-assessment on the basis of concrete examples drawn from his experience as a
literary translator. He specifically focuses on his translation of the novel ‘De
joodse messias [The Jewish Messiah]’, by the writer Arnon Grunberg. The author
concludes that self-assessment is not an accessory but rather an essential part
of the translation process of literary works because it helps recreate meaning,
rhythm, images, and connotations.


This volume presents a collection of eleven articles exploring various topics on
translation quality from both theoretical and empirical points of view, while
also introducing the state-of-the-art technologies used in this field. It is
very informative and, on the methodological level, puts forward new hypotheses
that can prove useful both to trainers and language professionals. In fact, this
volume can be of interest both to the layman interested in translation quality
and to the language specialist interested in evaluation techniques; it is
actually free of the excessive use of technical jargon typical of other similar
publications. The language use is thus very precise, scientific, and clear but
not parochial.

The articles are all in English, but the copious examples of translation are in
English, French, Spanish, and Dutch (in some cases Spanish into French and Dutch
into French translations include English translations for those who do not
understand those languages). Many of the articles focus on the role of
technologies in the translation process and in the translation evaluation of
specialized texts, while other contributions explore diverse approaches
involving literary and legal texts. Compared with previous work in the field,
this collection of articles shows a very pragmatic approach and provides
sensible solutions to the task of assessing a translated text, especially for
educational purposes.

Those interested in translation quality models will find valuable insights in
the first section of this collection, in which Delizée presents the evaluation
model used in the Master’s program in Specialized Multilingual Translation at
the University of Lille 3, and Depraetere discusses the use of a cutting-edge
computerized translation quality checker to implement formal quality in
translated texts. Both contributions illustrate the necessity of interaction
between human quality assessment and computer-assisted technologies. Gledhill
introduces another empirical hands-on approach that is particularly feasible and
systematic, as it is based on deep-rooted lexicogrammar notions.

The editor, who also authored and co-authored three articles of the volume, has
done an excellent job of selecting and compiling the contributions, which show a
wide range of themes and approaches. Even with such variety, the cohesion of the
collection is maintained through frequent links between the articles of the
book, thus highlighting interdependencies among apparently distant fields, such
as literary translation and technical translation.

The best aspect of this book is that it is the result of the collaboration
between academics and industry professionals. Therefore, it synthesizes varying
viewpoints based on real professional experiences. The volume stands out from
other books on translation quality because it does not oppose machine
translation on ideological grounds. Conversely, it shows that it is bound to
become a common support tool in translators’ daily practice, and thus, fully
integrated within the human translation (''transediting'' in Ulrych’s words, 2011)


Nord, Christiane. 1997. Translating as a Purposeful Activity. Functionalist
Approaches Explained. Manchester UK, St. Jerome Publishing.

Ulrych, Margherita. 2011. Transediting and its relevance to medical discourse.
In Loiacono, A., Iamartino, G., and Grego. K. (eds.). Teaching Medical English.
Monza, Polimetrica Publisher, pp. 75-93.

Dr. Daniele Russo is a faculty member at the University of Milan, where he teaches English Language and English Linguistics to undergraduates. His research interests include translation criticism, diachronic linguistics, medical specialized language and translation. He is also a translator of fiction and specialized literature.