The TEP Process in the Translation Industry: Why It Is a Determinant of Quality
Though unknown to most first-time translation buyers, TEP is the process by which most language service providers operate. Keep reading to learn more about the three steps of TEP services and why they are so important to the quality of a translation.
In this post:
- What is TEP?
- The “T” in TEP
- The “E” in TEP
- The “P” in TEP
- How does TEP affect translation pricing?
- The danger of over-editing
- What is TO?
- Could there be any additional steps to TEP?
- There’s no shortcut to quality
What is TEP?
TEP is an acronym that stands for Translation, Editing, and Proofreading. Together, these three steps comprise the process by which professional translators produce high-quality translations.
ISO 17100, the international standard for translation services, recognizes TEP as the best practice for translation. The standard even goes so far as to mandate that translations be edited and proofread by a second translator who did not work on the original translation.
By breaking the work into three distinct steps, TEP services ensure that no errors or inaccuracies slip through the cracks. Each step builds upon the last to create a final product that is as accurate and faithful to the original text as possible.
The “T” in TEP
The “T” in TEP stands for translation. While it’s technically the first step in the TEP process, no professional translator will start their work without first doing some initial research. This research is important in order to ensure that the translator understands the text’s content, the brief provided by the client, and the target audience.
Once this research is complete, the translator can begin working on producing a draft of the translation.
There’s a myriad of tools and resources available to aid translators in this process, but at the end of the day, it’s the translator’s job to produce a faithful and accurate representation of the source text.
The most common tool a translator will use is a CAT (Computer-Aided Translation) tool, which include several features that make the translation process easier, such as:
- A translation memory, which stores previously translated segments of text and allows for their re-use. This can be a huge time-saver, especially for larger projects, and it also helps maintain consistency throughout the translation.
- A glossary of terms, which the translator can refer to in order to ensure that they’re using the client’s preferred terminology consistently throughout the text.
- A spellchecker and/or grammar checker, which helps the translator produce a clean and error-free draft.
- An in-context preview, which allows the translator to see how their translation will appear in the final document.
- The option to export the translation back to the client in the original file format.
Some companies handling high-volume translation projects make use of machine translation (MT) in combination with TEP. By pre-translating their content with machine translation and then editing and proofreading the MT output, they’re able to greatly reduce the amount of work their human translators have to do.
Post-editing is key to bring the translation up to human quality standards. Once this is achieved, the text is ready to be edited.
Going beyond translation
Sometimes, mere translation is not enough. In these cases, the translator (typically working in tandem with the client’s Marketing, Product, and Design departments) may need to do some additional work in order to adapt the text to the target market. This might involve:
- Localisation, which is the process of adapting the entirety of the content to a particular market, including images, colors, idiomatic expressions, a website’s layout, etc.
- Transcreation, which is the process of recreating the content in the target language from scratch while maintaining the same meaning, tone, and style as the original. This might involve rewriting parts of the text or even coming up with entirely new concepts, and is the often used for content assets like slogans, taglines, or ad copy.
- Multilingual SEO, which is the process of optimising content for search engines in multiple languages. This might involve keyword research, title and meta tag optimisation, link building, etc.
The “E” in TEP
After the translation stage is complete, it’s time to move on to the “E” in TEP: editing. This phase is vital, as it’s where potential grammar, spelling, punctuation, register, and accuracy are caught and corrected.
It’s also where the text is checked for compliance with any client-specific guidelines that might have been provided. That’s why setting standards beforehand is so crucial, as well as the existence of a style guide to act as a compass for translators and editors alike.
Editing can be done by the translator themselves, but it’s generally best to have someone else do it. This is because it can be difficult for a translator to spot their own mistakes, and it’s important to have a second set of eyes on the text.
Editing is not a dead-end process. On the contrary, it may be a continuous back and forth between the editor and the translator or translators, and even between the editor and the client. Editors might need to justify their judgement to the translators so they have the chance to object to some of the suggested changes and offer, instead, a better match that might be neither the one chosen by the translator nor the one suggested by the editor.
When editors and translators work collaboratively, the resulting product is of the highest standard. Both the translators and the editor to whom the project has been assigned are specialists on the subject matter and are equally valuable for quality assurance.
In cases where a company decides to employ machine translation, it’s good practice to have someone pre-edit the text that will go into the system. The idea is to spot and correct anything that might create ambiguities or errors when fed into the machine translation system. This way, the amount of time needed for post-editing is reduced.
As we’ve already seen, post-editing is vital to produce a high-quality translation. This is the process of cleaning up a machine translation and bringing it up to human standards.
The advantage of neural machine translation systems (the standard nowadays) is that they “learn” from their mistakes and get better with time. As a rule of thumb, the more data they’re given, the better they get, and post-editing is one of the ways to “teach” them.
The “P” in TEP
The last step in the TEP trio is proofreading. This is the most controversial part of the translation process. Why do you have to proofread a copy that’s been already translated and edited as well? The answer is simple: Because proofreading has a different goal.
The purpose of proofreading is to make sure the text is error-free and flows well. While the editor is in charge of comparing the translation with the source text and making sure terminology is accurate, syntax is meaningful, and content is relevant, the proofreader goes only through the target text without referring to the source.
With a fine comb, they will hunt for typos, spelling mistakes, lack of fluency, and inconsistencies. Once they’re done, the text will be ready to publish.
Proofreading is the final quality check before a translation is released into the wild. In other words, proofreading is the last line of defence against potential errors that may have slipped by undetected in the previous two steps. Proofreading should never be seen as an unnecessary step.
Can the editor and the proofreader be the same person?
Yes, and no. Ideally, you want your copy to be proofread by a different person than the one who did the translation and the editing. It is widely known by translators and writers that the more you go over a text, the less you see.
Cognitively speaking, our mind is set in order to synthesise information of any type. This helps us store high volumes of information in our memory. For that reason, once you’ve read a text over and over again, your mind starts to overlook typos or punctuation mistakes, as well as other kinds of information.
Have you ever seen the reading exercise in several words have their middle letters scrambled, but the first and last ones are in the correct place? We have a cognitive “artifact” to ignore information that has become obvious to our mind by experience, and we presuppose it. This means that we start reading a word or phrase, and our mind retrieves the rest without actually reading it.
Impressive as it is, if we are the proofreader and the editor simultaneously, it’s very difficult to detach ourselves from the text and see it with fresh eyes. We know what it should say and our brain is trying to help us by filling in the gaps. It becomes a kind of “reading against the grain”.
How does TEP affect translation pricing?
Naturally, the more steps a text has to go through, the more expensive it will be. When you hire translation services, a TEP package will usually be more expensive than a translation-only service. TEP services involve a complex and time-consuming process, so it’s only natural that this will impact the price.
However, the return on investment is worth it. TEP is the best way to guarantee a high-quality translation that accurately reflects your message, whether for website localisation, app localisation, or any other purpose.
While machine translation is getting better every day, it’s not there yet. TEP is still the gold standard in the industry and will be for the foreseeable future. So, if you’re looking to get your message across in another language, TEP is the way to go. Make sure to find a reputable translation company that can offer you a TEP package tailored to your needs.
The danger of over-editing
Over-editing means making amendments that are purely preferential and have no impact on the meaning or readability of the translated text. However, while many linguists claim that stylistic corrections are purely preferential and fall within over-editing, we don’t agree.
Inappropriate or poor style can prevent the translated text from performing its function, impairing its quality, and might even derive distorted meanings. In other cases, poor style can make target readers perceive the text as dissonant with the brand’s tone of voice, which goes against localisation best practices.
Examples of actual over-editing may involve things like replacing words with pure synonyms with no purpose at all, adding optional punctuation, implementing unnecessary grammatical changes without the original version being incorrect, etc.
What is TO?
TO are the initials for Translation Only. As the term suggests, TO states that a single assigned professional translates the text and does not perform any other task such as proofreading or editing.
Another option for this approach is that the translator is the same person who edits and proofreads the text. This means that the specialist self-reviews their own product before delivering it to clients. We have already shared our position in this regard and stated the reasons why we don’t favour his approach. While TO can be a bit cheaper than TEP, it can hardly offer the same quality service.
Could there be any additional steps to TEP?
Apart from the three essential steps in TEP services (translation, editing, and proofreading), a few other things may come into play when dealing with translation, depending on the situation. For example, some clients will require that the text be reviewed by a subject matter expert (SME) in their team who is familiar with the topic of the text.
This is common in fields such as legal, medical, or technical translation, where using specific terminology is essential and any mistake could have dire consequences. In these cases, TEP+SME is the way to go.
There’s no shortcut to quality
The key takeaway here is that TEP services are essential to guarantee a high-quality translation. There’s no way around it. TEP is not for you if you’re looking for a cheap translation. But if you’re looking for a translation that accurately reflects your message and is tailored to your target audience, TEP is the way to go.