We recently finished a translation with one hundred thousand 100% matches. Our client, a translation agency, asked us not to review them. This is quite a usual request for a translation agency, and until recently, I thought it was more or less okay not to be paid for 100% matches. But as we continue to improve the quality of the translations Velior produces, it has become obvious that skipping 100% matches—however financially attractive it might seem—is a poor decision from the quality standpoint.
Assuming 100% matches are automatically correct is dangerous
Here are three reasons why:
To expect that 100% matches are always perfect, one must believe that segmentation in the original translation was perfect, too. But this could not be further from the truth! First, many people in the translation industry either do not understand segmentation, because it is too technical, or do not think it is important. As a result, no one takes the time to look at source files and check whether segmentation is appropriate. Second, agencies tend to prohibit translators from changing (i.e., correcting) segmentation, since any deviation from the automatic segmentation means that in the next project, automatic segmentation will not match the segmentation in the TM. The result of this “garbage in”—incorrectly segmented stuff going into the TM—is “garbage out”; that is, 100% matches in the next project that do not make any sense. Let’s look at a simple example:
First segment: Development
Second segment: Ideas
Imagine that a phrase “Development Ideas” is incorrectly broken into two segments and is being translated into Russian. Because the Russian language commands a different word order than English, a translator will have to put the translation of “Development” into the second segment and vice versa. As a result, “Development” will be translated as “Ideas” and “Ideas” translated as “Development” in the TM. When in the next project, “Development” occurs as a standalone word and is translated as a 100% match, it will be in fact translated as “Ideas,” which is a 100% mistranslation.
Differences in context
Since the meaning of a phrase often depends on the context, the meaning changes when the context changes. For example, “Areas of focus” means one thing when used to describe areas of interest of a public opinion survey, and quite another thing when it means areas of focus for employee development. Even though the English text is the same, translation into many languages will be different. Of course, if no one reviews 100% matches to make sure they fit the new context, some of them won’t.
Some tend to perceive any TM as a source of reliable and approved translations. But this is not always the case. Just because a translation comes from a TM does not mean that it is automatically correct. 100% matches must be reviewed for errors for at least one specific reason: When they were originally created, a translation team might have had less context than is available in the new project, and by looking at this new, additional context, the team might realize that the old translation is inaccurate.
XTranslated units/perfect matches/in-context matches (ICE)/101% matches/guaranteed matches
Despite the different names, these matches mean one and the same thing—a 100% match that occurs in exactly the same context; that is, the same location in a text. A match that also takes into account the context usually eliminates all the issues I described above and does not require revision as a result (while still requiring time for the translation team to read it). But the problem is that some agencies choose to ignore the distinction between the two types of matches. When a project has both in-context matches and simple 100% matches, an agency might request skipping all 100% matches, as if all of them were in-context matches. Of course, while skipping in-context matches is relatively safe, skipping simple 100% matches is too dangerous.
If a translation team is required to skip 100% matches, it might be difficult to do so when it comes to automatic quality assurance, because QA is done on the entire translation by default, including the 100% matches. Even though many QA and CAT tools do have an option of skipping these matches, they still might present a challenge in terms of QA.
Translators need to know the context
Last but not least, a translation team needs to read 100% matches, even if it is not required to do so by the client. Reading the 100% matches is necessary to see the context, the big picture of the project. Without reading them, the new translations will be inaccurate, especially those that are adjacent to 100% matches. For this reason alone, the translation team must be compensated for 100% matches.
This same reason makes it absolutely unacceptable to remove 100% matches from the files. If they are removed and the translation team cannot see the original context and the existing translations, quality inevitably takes a hit.
Even though I understand why agencies may not want to pay for 100% matches, I do not think this is the right approach from the quality standpoint. If quality does not matter, then not revising and not paying for 100% matches is fine, I guess. But if it does matter, ignoring 100% matches is not an option. A translation team must be compensated for at least reading them, or, better yet, for full-fledged revision. Here is what I recommend:
Translators: Consider not accepting jobs with unpaid matches. If you accept them, you will likely spend more time on those jobs than you will be paid for. And even if you and your client agree that by not paying you for 100% matches, you are not responsible for any problems with them, the client will feel that any errors are partly your fault anyway. If refusing such jobs is not an option for you, at least educate clients as much as possible.
Translation buyers: It is important to pay something for 100% matches. This may be a high rate, if you want your translation vendor to do a full revision of 100% matches. Or this may be a lower rate, if you just want to compensate the vendor for the time spent reading those 100% matches to know the context. Whatever your situation is, some form of compensation is in order.
Dear readers, what do you think? Under what circumstances will it be okay for you to accept or send a job without paying for 100% matches?
For more information about the inherent problems of the translation industry, read the previous articles in this series: