It is clear from this conversation that the word “standards” is a source of great confusion in the professional translation world. Part of the problem is conflation and part of the problem is definition or lack of “clear” definition on what is meant by standards especially as they relate to quality. In the conversation, we both appear to agree that data interchange is becoming much more critical and it would be valuable to the industry to have robust data interchange standards, however, we both feel that overall process standards like EN15038 have very little value in practical terms.
This discussion on quality standards in particular is often difficult because of conflation, i.e. very different concepts being equated and assumed to be the same. I think we have at least 3 different concepts that are being referenced and confused as being the same concept, in many discussions on “quality”.
- End to End Process Standards: ISO 9001, EN15038, Microsoft QA and LISA QA 3.1. They have a strong focus is on administrative, documentation, review and revision processes not just the linguistic quality assessment of the final translation.
- Automated SMT System Output Translation Quality Metrics (TQM): BLEU, METEOR, TERp, F-Measure, Rouge and several others that only focus on rapidly scoring MT output by assessing precision and recall and referencing one or more human translations of the exact same source material to develop this score.(Useful for MT system developers but not much else).
- Human Evaluation of Translation Linguistic Quality: Error categorization and subjective human quality assessment, usually at a sentence level. SAE J2450, the LISA Quality Metric and perhaps the Butler Hill TQ Metric (that Microsoft uses extensively and TAUS advocates) are examples of this.(Can vary greatly depending on the humans involved.)
But standards are needed to scale and handle the volume of translation that will likely be done and enable greater inter-process automation as we head into a world where we continuously translate dynamic streams of content. Free online MT services have given the global enterprise a taste for what translation as a utility looks like. Now some want to see if it can be done better and in a more focused way at higher quality levels to enhance global business initiatives and expand the dialog with the global customer. (I think it can be done much better with customized, purpose-driven MT working with and steered by skilled language professionals). Translation as a utility is a concept that describes an always-on, on-demand, streaming translation service that can translate high value streams of content at defined quality levels for reasonable rates. Data will flow in and out of authoring, content management, social networks, translation workflow, MT and TM systems.
As this new mode of production gains momentum, I believe that it would be useful to the industry in general to have a meaningful and widely used measure of relative translation quality i.e. average linguistic quality of a target corpus. This would facilitate the production processes for 10X and 100X increases in content volume, and allow LSPs to define and deliver different levels of quality using different production models. I am convinced that the best translation production systems will be man-machine collaborations, as we already know what free online raw MT looks like.(Useful sometimes for getting the gist of a text, but rarely useful for enterprise use). Skilled humans who understand translation automation tools and know how to drive and steer linguistic quality in these new translation production models can dramatically change this reality.
It would also be useful to have robust data interchange standards. I recently wrote an entry about the lack of robust data interchange standards that seemed to resonate. We are seeing that content on the internet is evolving from an HTML to an XML perspective. This makes it easier for content to flow in and out of key business processes. Some are suggesting soon all the data will live in the cloud and applications will decline in importance as translators zero in on what they do best and only what they do best: translate. Today, they too much time is spent on making the data usable today.
There are some data standard initiatives that could build momentum e.g. XLIFF 2.0, but these initiatives will need more volunteer involvement (as I was reminded by “Anonymous” to include people like me to actually walk the walk and not just talk about it) and broad community support and engagement. The problem is that there is no one place to go to for standards. LISA? OASIS? W3C? ISO TC37? How do we get these separate efforts to collaborate and produce single unified specifications that have authority and MUST be adhered to? There are others who have lost faith in the industry associations and expect that the standards will most likely come from outside the industry, perhaps inadvertently from people like Google and Facebook who implement an open XML-based data interchange format. Or possibly this could come from one of the open translation initiatives that seem to be growing in strength across the globe.
There are at least two standards (that are well defined and used by many) that I think would really be helpful to make translation as a utility happen:
- A linguistic quality rating that is at least somewhat objective, can be easily reproduced/replicated and can be used to indicate the relative linguistic quality of both human translated and various MT systems output. This would be especially useful to LSPs to understand post-editing cost structures and help establish more effective pricing models for this kind of work that if fair to both customers and translators.
- A robust, flexible yet simple data interchange standard that protects linguistic assets (TM, terminology, glossary) but can also easily be exported to affiliated processes (CMS, DMS, Web Content).
Perhaps we should take heed of of what John Anster and W H Murray (not Goethe) said as we move forward:
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness, concerning all acts of initiative and creation. There is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never have otherwise occurred.