The Top 8 Qualities of Professional Teams that Translate English to Korean

There is a lot of talk in the translation industry about best practices, quality metrics, and multiple levels of quality assurance and quality control. However, most translation firms put these in place to ensure a minimum quality level, not to truly achieve excellence. Greatness is achieved beyond the rules. But when processes reign supreme, efficiency improvements push English-to-Korean translators into merely providing “good enough”. Rules also aren’t conducive to providing the best client experience, and certainly not at reasonable rates. Make sure you select a team for your translation project that provides the best balance of quality, service, and price to translate English to Korean.

Best practices ensure your readers correctly understand the message of your English-to-Korean translation.

Heading in to Pado Village
Photo by Steven S. Bammel

Along Section 16 of the Chirisan Doollae-Gil
http://seongpodong.koreanconsulting.com


RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE KOREAN TRANSLATION BEST-PRACTICES SERIES



1. Works in a team of three

The basic process for projects to translation English into Korean involves one translator and one editor. This is generally adequate for the linguistic aspects of ordinary work, especially if the English-to-Korean translator and editor are qualified for the subject matter and approach their tasks with a professional mindset.

However, this process does not account for project management, file preparation, final QA checks, and formatting. In many cases, the translator and/or editor are expected to perform these additional tasks themselves when they translate English to Korean. This is fine if they take the time to perform these tasks diligently.

However, I’ve found that translators can get distracted by poorly prepared texts for translation. Also, they are ready to move on after finishing the basic linguistic tasks, especially if the rates don’t account for extra work.

Stripping out the extras in the workflow before and after sending the job to my team results in better work. I’ve described the reasons in more detail elsewhere, but the basic logic is related to the compromises of multitasking. Allowing each team member to focus on their core role raises accountability and quality and encourages a deeper level of expertise and effort.

This is why I personally handle the project management, pre-translation and post-editing steps myself on every project. This simplifies the key linguistic tasks for my team. It also, as described below, brings a new level of insight to the project. As a result, I am able to improve our final deliveries well beyond the baseline.


2. Uses and improves on industry technology

English-to-Korean translators use advanced computer-aided translation (CAT) tools to perform most translation of English into Korean today. These software programs provide a work environment that facilities the work of the translator and editor. When most people think of computers and translation, machine translation (such as Google Translate) comes to mind. However, machine translation is not a key part of CAT-tool workflows at the high end of the English-to-Korean translation market. Instead, professional translators use CAT tools to improve efficiency and quality as they translate English to Korean, and they usually perform the entire translation without using machine translation at all. These tools also let us work with dozens–even hundreds–of different file formats within the same translation interface. This is another way of removing distractions and raising quality and efficiency.

However, while these programs are powerful aids, the idiosyncrasies of individual language combinations (in our case, English-to-Korean) mean that the default quality checks are somewhat rudimentary and do not address specific language issues. It takes a language and technology expert to customize the tools and processes for the work, improving text segmentation, nontranslatables, inline tags, QC checks, and many other things.

Regular expressions (a concept from the computer programming world) can be a powerful tool in this customizing effort. However, regular expressions aren’t simple, and most translators have only a superficial understanding of this resource. I have worked with programmers to develop dozens of regular expression filters and checks, and even some custom software, that identifies translation issues unique to the English-to-Korean language pair. Our clients reap the benefit of this investment over the years in our proprietary programmed devices.


3. Includes native-English and Korean linguists

An axiom of the translation industry is that a translator must translate into his or her native language. There are good reasons for this, mainly that a translator who translates into his or her non-native language will not be able to write as clearly and idiomatically as a native speaker. This means that to translate English to Korean, both the translator and editor should be native Korean speakers.

However, this approach is not perfect because a native Korean speaker working as an English-to-Korean translator will sometimes misunderstand English expressions, which results in mistranslations. If a translator misunderstands a source text, the editor should catch it. But this doesn’t always happen on errors resulting from grammatical and phrasing constructions that Koreans are prone to miss. To address this drawback of the standard workflow, a native English speaker who is fluent in Korean should also be involved. This person should check for mistranslations, as well as other common errors committed by English-to-Korean translators.

While including a bilingual native English-speaker on the project can contribute significantly to the quality of the final translation, this also raises the cost of the job. Price competition in the business usually prevents this useful step. Also, because most bilingual native English-speakers in the English-to-Korean language pair are not experienced checking the work of English-to-Korean translators, the final result is uncertain anyway.

Fortunately, we have a solution! As described above, I translate Korean to English and I personally handle the non-linguistic tasks in the project management, file-prep, and QA processes. Someone has to do this work anyway, so it’s built into the project overhead. Since I’m already working through the text, spot-checking for additional translation errors within segments already flagged for other concerns only adds a little time to the work. During my work, I become familiar with both the source and translated text, and I often know where to look for problems without going through everything.

Thus, without adding a new workflow, I check for source phrasings that I know, based on long experience, non-native English speaker translators are likely to misunderstand when translating English to Korean. I can then rephrase these before the job starts. Likewise, during my QA steps, if I see something to improve, I can fix it directly or send it back to my editor for correction. In rare cases, if the spot-check process indicates deeper problems, I’ll review the whole thing. This extra effort is an unexpected investment, but I do it because my commitment to my clients is firm.

One more advantage of a native English speaker being involved in your project is the additional perspective I bring to cultural elements that may or may not be suitable or communicated properly to your target audience. My team in Korea participates in this effort, as well, but a bi-directional perspective on such matters can only help to ensure every opportunity is taken to improve the final translation.

Our unique approach adds a level and dimension of quality assurance that is only available in a team made up of both English and Korean native speakers.


4. Includes subject matter experts in the material being translated

A translator should be an expert in the subject of the material being translated. This is a truism to which everyone in the translation industry pays lip service. Indeed, even a good translator will produce a bad Korean translation on materials about an unfamiliar subject matter. We focus only on technical translation, and on every project, at least one (and usually two, or even three!) members of our team are experts on the topic.

We back this claim up in many ways. First of all, I present my qualifications on this website for anyone to see and verify.

I always work with the same editor, Donghyuk Kim, who has served for over 20 years as a designated translator for the Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information (KISTI), having worked to translate English to Korean on thousands of documents across a broad range of technical fields. Before that, Mr. Kim worked in international trade, both in Korea and overseas.

Our translation team is made up of linguists on the front-line of business and technology in Korea, often working or having worked for decades in technical fields before working with us.

As a result, we put 50+ years of combined translation experience to work for you on virtually every project!


5. Follows documented, standardized, and auditable approaches

Consistently good work starts with well-designed and documented workflows. While processes can only go so far in ensuring excellence, checklists take a mental burden off professionals performing basic tasks. They make it easier to remember to address each aspect of complicated processes. Beyond that though, dynamic and flexible processes allow the translator, editor, and quality inspector to concentrate on excellence in the areas requiring more tacit knowledge.

We have documented, not only our processes, but also our in-house style guide, and client interfacing tools. These form a starting point, a point of reference for consistency within a single project–as well as between projects–that lets us focus on getting the basics done consistently every time.

Having worked in the translation industry for over twenty years, I have seen my share of English-to-Korean translators who talk about processes but don’t really follow anything particularly meaningful for quality or efficiency. This makes me cynical. It also motivates me to do better, which is why I don’t just talk about our processes; I provide full transparency.

Our basic quality-assurance process and style guide are available for client review (click the links above). I am always glad to provide profile information of each team member working on your job. Finally, I retain a full audit trail of files showing the original translation, the edited translation, and the final version. In fact, this entire process is encompassed in our “Consistently Good Work” Pledge that I stand behind in legally meaningful ways (see the next section).


6. Meets client requirements locally

Translation quality is just one aspect of the process of delivering good work. What good is it to receive a translation in the morning if there are problems or questions that need to be addressed urgently but you cannot reach your English-to-Korean translator on the other side of the world during your local business day? What about legal accountability? Resources without a presence in your local market (in our case, the US) cannot be held fully accountable for their work, and this does affect how seriously they take their commitments to clients.

I am only an email or a phone call away during the US business day; you’ll never be left with questions that you need to be answered, wondering when I’ll wake up and reply. Further, though we’ve never had to use it, I have carried errors and omissions insurance for twenty years to protect my clients (evidence available on request). This demonstrates tangibly that we stand behind our work in ways that very few of our competitors do or can. I have also been a member of the American Translators Association since 2000, helping to support the industry in the North American market where most of my clients are located.

In every way, my team and I are here to meet your requirements on a local level, and I am ready to accommodate other needs unique to your situation. This doesn’t mean we can’t and don’t support clients outside the US market (especially Western Europe), but our base is here, and this is where we are strongest.


7. Provides transparent, flexible, and value-based pricing

Translation pricing is based on many different considerations. While an English-to-Korean translation project can be quoted on a per-word, per-character, or even per-page, basis, there are still many factors that cause the price to fluctuate, including the following:

  • Size of the project
  • Translation direction
  • Type of content
  • Internal repetition
  • Ongoing relationship/retainer work
  • Deadline/timetable
  • Format and condition of source files
  • Formatting and/or other typesetting requirements
  • Location of work performance
  • Target use of the document
  • … and other

Opaque quotes that don’t provide any insight into how a price was calculated, or that don’t tell the client how to get the price lower, can leave a client wondering about pricing consistency and fairness from job to job.

On our projects, I offer discounts when I can. I also take additional cost factors into account that ensure consistent value on an ongoing basis. I’ll provide you with a base rate. I will also adjust this transparently with an adequate explanation of the reasons for those changes. In many cases, my rates will be lower than the base rate, thanks to discounts for volume, repetition, and ongoing work. At the same time, I don’t generally throw in extras for free. If I did, I would have to raise my rates across the board. This would not be fair to clients who work efficiently and/or have lower service needs. At the same time, when I bill additionally, I will let you know so that you aren’t surprised. We can discuss ways to streamline workflows that help you to keep your costs down.


8. Communicates and sets expectations proactively

Regardless of whether you need Korean business translation, Korean financial translation, or Korean legal translation, if you can’t communicate adequately with your Korean translation service provider in advance, you may be in for a surprise at the end. It is essential that you nail down with your English-to-Korean translator what your expectations are. But figuring out what to say shouldn’t be your job. Your language services provider is an expert in his or her business. He or she should take the initiative to identify and clarify with you everything before getting started.

I am very strong in client communications. You will never wonder what is happening with your project. I’ll also let you know what it’s going to cost, when you’ll get it, and how it will be handled. Before we start, I will ask you targeted questions about the project using the tools I have developed. I will also stay in touch with you during the process. If I have questions about the material, I’ll let you know. Occasionally, I’ll even suggest changes to the project scope, when appropriate. Finally, after delivery, I will remain available to answer questions, provide feedback, and even address additional work you may need related to the project.

Conclusion

Don’t underestimate the expertise and effort that goes into providing excellent English-to-Korean translation work. Furthermore, best practices only go so far; a truly committed translator and translation team follows the processes for good work, but also adds that something extra.



Thank you for reading!

I hope you’ve found the information in this article helpful and interesting. Please share a link to this post using the social media buttons below. Also, if you have questions or additional observations, feel free to leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!

Share

Steven Bammel

Steven S. Bammel is president and chief translator/consultant at Korean Consulting & Translation Service, Inc. A graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington (B.B.A. Economics) and Hanyang University (M.S. Management Strategy), Steven has worked for over twenty years in Korean business and translation. | more about Steven

You may also like...

1 Response

  1. May 8, 2019

    […] Korean at a native Korean level, I read Korean content somewhat slowly, and would not be able to translate English to Korean fluently. However, when it comes to translation, I am equally deliberate in putting together […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *