Quantifying the cost of poor quality in translation – sour cherries

The Directorate-General for Translation of the European Commission has made available a report written late last year, as part of the ‘Studies on translation and multilingualism’ series, on Quantifying Quality Costs and the Cost of Poor Quality in Translation. The document can be downloaded in PDF format here.

Items such as prevention of poor quality, evaluation, and clarification of original texts may be of interest to those of you procuring translation as well as to translators. Some case studies from ‘real life’ have been given.  One interesting example relates to protective measures on the import of sour cherries which accidentally became “sweet cherries” in the initial German version.

The last section looks at “the (possible) legal consequences of translation errors for companies and/or citizens“. It addresses the issue of corrigenda and their potential impact on legal certainty, and provides some examples of errors referred to in cases of the European Court of Justice.

8 thoughts on “Quantifying the cost of poor quality in translation – sour cherries

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  2. very interesting …

    I can only agree, but if they are aware of that, why they go on selecting low-ball resources, only to save some money?

    a similar situation happens with EMA

    I contacted the European Medicines Agency with this email:
    every day I face label, PIL and SmPC translations for generics, and using EMA TAUS and OPUS memories (that come from aligning of published EMA documents) as a reference, but being forced by my customers to comply to, I really cannot believe that blunders like this one:
    “colour tinge to vision” = “maggiore intensità dei colori alla vista”
    “time to limiting angina = tempo all’esordio dell’angina”
    and many, many other medical blunders as for example non-compliances to ICD-9/10, are really printed on accompanying documents of renowned drugs!

    so, can you explain me how it is possible?
    i.e. is it a fault of DGT that doesn’t select translators/proofreader properly?
    is it a fault of EMA officers that don’t check accurately documents issued for centralised authorisations?

    NOTE: I don’t want starting a dispute, simply having a good grasp of the problem, if possible, as both final customers and translation agencies, consider EMA already published docs as The Bible, so trying to convince them that there can be mistakes, and that mistakes must be fixed, is a mission impossible

    so, it should be nice if every resource responsible for these mistakes, and I think the whole supply chain has a responsibility, will try to make translations better, over the time ..

    their answer was:
    EMA doesn’t manage translators. EMA follows a specifical procedure to check translations “The linguistic review process of product information in the centralised procedure” available here:

    Click to access WC500004182.pdf

    After drug approval, translations are prepared by drug companies that require the drug approval or by the CDT in Luxemburg. Then these translations are sent by us to various national agencies (ie “QRD Member States”) for a quality/language control (e.g. translations into Italian are sent by us to EFSA).

    then they asked me to show blunders together with the documents they were found on, an immense task that I cannot clearly afford …

    I finally suggested a possible workflow but no one answered, and I’m quite sure that no one will answer

    A – create a Chief Executive in the chain of command, as it seems lacking

    B – create a validated memory

    C – create a validated glossary

    D – force all actors to follow validated memory/glossary

    E – force all actors (authors included) to follow standard rules, i.e. ICD-9/10, SI-IS rules etc., as one can find blunders even in the original text!

    and I added that the lack of above points makes a vicious circle, so that mistakes skipped by filters become “The Bible” and are almost impossible to amend, so it’s necessary that the Chief Executive states that documents are made at best, but errors in the chain of command are always possible, so it is NOT forbidden to amend an official document …

    OR, even better
    it would require the building of a special team, responsible for going through proposed amendments, then implement them in the future validated memory/glossary

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this Claudio. I do so agree that it is essential to question and give feedback. Like you, I sometimes get silence in return… 😦

    I also would like to underline your point E “authors included”. So much official/Government/legal work *still* comes through to me for translation with howling errors in source content. I do wonder what happens when the translator says nothing, or comments don’t get passed on to anyone who will take action.

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