Managing Your Localization Career: QA Compliance/Testing

“Quality is never an accident;
it is always the result of intelligent effort.”

– John Ruskin

Due to the complex nature of the localization process, establishing a way to ensure quality of the finished product is vitally important.

If we stand back and take a look at what is expected of localization, we might be pretty surprised at the challenge. A group of people, sometimes large but sometimes small,  are often scattered around the world trying to work together. They pull apart different files to reach the content and information in order to translate and adapt everything for international markets. Then the team members reassemble everything and deliver a final program, never really knowing for sure if everything turned out to be correct or not. People who manage and participate in localization projects can can’t read everything that is being produced because of the language differences, and rarely see a fully assembled end program at all.

This is where quality assurance comes in.

Quality assurance (QA) is the practice that tasks professionals with various skills and areas of expertise to closely review information, materials, products, content or other assets in the localization project to find errors that need fixing before a final delivery.

There are different focus areas for QA in the localization lifecycle.

First is Linguistic QA. Once a translation has more or less been finalized and a program has been reassembled, a linguistic QA professional can perform a review to try to identify or catch any errors that may have been missed along the way. Linguistic QA does not look to change the translation or offer alternatives. Instead they look to find blatant errors. These errors could include things like misspellings, missed or wrong punctuation, missing or corrupted characters or fonts, errors related to concatenated strings in software code, cut off text due to expansion, awkward or mistranslations due to lack of contextual information in the source translation files. Linguistic QA can allow a professional to perform a final review of the program or content right before it is to be delivered to ensure the quality of the translation and localization efforts.

Another type of QA is technical in nature. Since most localization programs have a strong technical component, and the localization process requires that files are processed and reprocessed several times, a Technical QA review is required. As anyone who has ever worked in software development can attest, software code is finicky and can break or error easily. If there was an accidental deletion of a colon or comma, for example, a technical feature might break or disappear from the final product potentially causing major issues. A technical QA review will allow a professional tester to compare the source to the localized end products to ensure technical integrity. If errors are found, they can be reported to the teams and fixed.

In some industries like life sciences and healthcare, translation and localization must adhere to strict compliance requirements. These may be to ensure safety like when a company localizes the instructions for a prescription medication or the operations manual for a surgical instrument. There is absolutely no room for error. In these situations, QA takes on an extra level of seriousness where compliance measures are followed and built into the process.

QA can be performed in at any time during the localization lifecycle but is commonly done toward the end of the program when everything is close to being completed. QA professionals will perform their review according to a test plan and report errors as they are discovered. The reporting will be recorded in some type of tracking system like a database or list. The errors are then passed along to people on the team who would be responsible for addressing and fixing them. Depending on time restrictions or the severity of the errors, the problems may not be fixed but might be deferred to another time or accepted as is. Frequently there are discussions to see what is best for the product and the program overall when deciding what to fix and not fix during testing.

What kind of experience or skills should I have for work in QA Compliance/Testing?

QA professionals will be best suited for people who have strong attention to detail and can focus for long periods of time. QA positions require patience, diligence, and meticulous sensibility. Working with structure and having everything be perfect will work well in this role.

Who might find QA Compliance/Testing challenging?

QA work by its nature can be solitary so people who like to work on teams or in groups may find it isolating. QA also requires the work to be uniform, clean and in a predefined structure. That way the QA team will remain consistent in its process when identifying errors. To that end, people who have a lot of creative ideas or like to build new things from scratch may not find QA work to be a comfortable fit.