Drugan, Joanna (2013). Quality in Professional Translation. Assessment and Improvement.
London/New York: Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 222, £26.09. ISBN: 978-1-4411-7664-6.
Joanna Drugan's book Quality in Professional Translation: Assessment and Improvement provides an overview of the current translation industry. Its aim is twofold: firstly, to provide an account of theoretical and professional approaches to measuring and improving quality, and secondly, to critically analyse these approaches, focusing on their fittingness for professional purposes.
The book is divided into six chapters. The first chapter goes straight to the point by focusing on the goings-on in today's translation industry, setting the scene for the entire book. We learn "how economic, social, and technological changes are transforming the translation industry" (6), and what sort of implications they have on deadlines, speed, rates of pay and, by extension, on translation quality. Chapter two focuses on academic approaches to quality (45-69), whereas professional approaches (75-80) are only briefly discussed here, the reason being that they are presented as detailed cases in chapters four and five.
Chapter three then presents the main electronic tools that are used in the industry, considering their impact on translation workflow and quality. This chapter is highly informative particularly to students and those of us who are in charge of preparing them for the demands and opportunities in the industry. We learn that tools are used in each of the five stages in translation projects: in pre-job planning and bidding, in award of contracts and agreeing on project conditions, in project management, in project completion, and in post-project review and management. The author concludes the chapter on tool usage by identifying two distinct paradigms in quality measurement and comparison: "one based on traditional industry approaches, and the second on emerging strategies" (123) adopted by companies such as Google and Facebook. The approaches are then presented separately as traditional top-down translation quality models (chapter four) and bottom-up translation quality models (chapter five), respectively. What's more, their benefits and disadvantages are discussed. These chapters are illuminating and valuable for anyone working in any capacity in the translation industry, not forgetting micro entrepreneur translators.
Finally, chapter six concludes the book by warning that if translation theorists focus on the "quality of the text alone" (183), they fail to notice the rapid developments taking place in the industry and the impact that these have on quality, its definition, and assessment. But there are lessons to be learned for clients and users, too. Whatever the approach chosen, top-down or bottom-up, quality benefits can be obtained by communicating client and user expectations effectively to translators (184). This point is crucial, yet not discussed in any greater detail by the author. Drugan further emphasizes the point that top-down and bottom-up approaches can benefit from each other and a symbiotic relationship between the two is desirable. As an example of such a fruitful relationship the author mentions the Open Source movement in the software industry, where it was initially considered a threat to established providers (184). In the final chapter, the author also briefly touches upon the relationship of quality and ethics (187-189).
I find the book well-written and easy to read. Readability is facilitated by the fact that each of the rather long chapters starts with an introduction to the topic at hand and ends with a summary of the major points covered. The author merits praise for her up-to-date, highly practical and wide-ranging study on the so far little researched subject of professional translation quality.
Yet, even in a fine work such as this, there are a few points that I would like to raise. Firstly, the methodology of the research project is rather vaguely described. We learn that the book is based on large-scale empirical fieldwork in the translation industry since 2004, including actors "involved in managing or measuring translation quality" (3), such as translators, both freelance and in-house, executives, heads of units, project managers, quality managers, clients, end-users, editors, revisers, terminologists, software engineers and sales and marketing staff. We also learn that the research covered over 100 agencies, companies and organizations of various sizes that offer one or multiple language pairs. Furthermore, we learn that the methods for obtaining data included observation, interviews, questionnaires, think-aloud protocols and work shadowing (3). However, we do not know when the research ended or whether it is perhaps still ongoing. Neither do we know the exact numbers nor percentages of the informants in each of the groups mentioned above. Such information would have been helpful in gaining a more fine-grained picture of the actors' differing opinions, goals and interests regarding quality. Secondly, the book's table of contents is very cursory; it only lists the first level headings, although the subsections of the book include headings down to the third level. This is a regrettable drawback and a major usability problem in a publication otherwise suitable to be used as a handbook. Thirdly, and most importantly, in a comprehensive book on professional translation quality, I would have liked the author to focus in more detail on the ethical dimension of quality. Granted, there is a brief section of the topic at the end of the book, but since the issue pops up here and there implicitly throughout the book, a more detailed discussion would have been in order.
In spite of the above-mentioned minor shortcomings, I wholeheartedly recommend the book to anyone interested in professional translation quality and the myriad tools used in the industry today. Students, teachers, researchers, translators and other professionals working in the industry in any capacity will benefit from the insights that this book offers.
University of Vaasa