Quality Assurance in Translation for the Korean Language

The translation industry is increasingly making use of quality assurance (QA) to avoid costly mistakes when organizations enter new markets. Translation and localization go hand-in-hand. This means that it’s not just a word-for-word translation from the source to the target language. 

The cultural nuances of the target country’s language must also be taken into account. This is especially true for Korean as honorifics play such a crucial role in the cultural and linguistic expressions of people there. However, one thing that can make a strong impact and ensure a higher quality of output is quality assurance.

What is QA in translation?

QA in translation, in general, can broadly be explained as the people and processes behind linguistic quality assurance (LQA). As the name suggests, this refers to the sphere of linguistics and particularly to translation and localization. Where QA in translation comes to the fore is usually at the end of a translation and localization project. 

The purpose of quality assurance in translation is to ultimately ensure that the final translated product is of the highest standard possible. Failing to implement QA in translation projects can lead to costly mistakes. One example is the poorly translated catchphrase for HSBC bank in 2009, which cost the company $10 million. 

As such, organizations are well advised to ensure that their translation projects go through the process of quality assurance in order to enable them to penetrate markets more effectively, not cause harm or offense to their target market, and of course, avoid costly and extremely expensive losses that can result in an organization losing face.

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Two major types of QA

There are two major types of quality assurance: linguistic and technical. We explore each one in more depth below.

Linguistic

Linguistic quality assurance is performed by a native-speaking third party, usually at the end of the translation and localization project. 

This means that costly mistakes can be avoided, grammar, misspelled words, and typos are fixed, sentence structure is accurate, there is consistency in the usage of frequently used, complex terms, and dates are in the right format, and general cultural nuances are taken into account.

This process can be quite time-consuming but it’s essential to include it as part of your translation project because the ramifications of not doing so can be severe.  

Technical

Technical quality assurance, on the other hand, is the process of using QA software or tools to catch any mistakes in a translation and localization project. 

There are numerous benefits to this, including the fact that the use of software can be much quicker to use and it can also be implemented at various stages of the project. 

However, it’s ideal to combine it with the human touch because translation software tools have not yet been developed for 100% accuracy.

What to look out for when doing QA in Korean?

When doing QA for Korean, certain complexities arise. This is especially the case when translating English to Korean or Korean to English. Some of the most frequent examples of cases where (relatively) minor but important mistakes occur in such translation projects include:
QA in translation for Korean

  • Misuse of capitalization: anyone who has looked at the Korean alphabet will quickly realize that the language does not consist of capital and lower-case letters. Instead, there is only one type of character size. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s used at the beginning of a sentence or to signal a person’s name – there is no capitalization of words in Korean at all. 

    This can be tricky for those translating from Korean to English because English, on the other hand, is full of capitalization, which is not only used at the beginning of every sentence but also to indicate a wide array of proper nouns.

  • No differentiation between the singular and plural: this is another specific feature of the Korean language. It does not differentiate between singular and plural nouns or objects. As such, English-to-Korean translations can at times be hard to perform because there are limited identifying features for showing that a word is in the plural form in Korean.
  • No differentiation between tenses: a further interesting feature of translations to and from Korean that quality assurance must take into account is the fact that Korean does not differentiate between the past and present tense. This can be quite tricky to convey, especially in translations from English to Korean, and as such, is another area where QA for Korean is essential.
  • Expressing names: a further peculiarity in the Korean language, and also a major aspect of Asian culture, is the fact that surnames are placed before first names. This may be a simple mistake for a QA linguist to pick up on but it is an essential one because not doing so can risk alienating a target audience.

Although there are numerous other instances and peculiarities of the Korean language, it is essential for translations from and to Korean to undergo quality assurance checks because minor details like these can add up to quite large errors that can easily cause offense, misunderstanding, and ultimately, loss of market share.

Linguistic quality assurance for Korean

From the above, it should be evident by now that linguistic quality assurance or QA for Korean is a must. When project managers work on a translation and localization project, they need to implement quality check steps along the way.

This is one way of ensuring that errors are caught before publication or distribution to the wider public or for internal organizational use. As such, QA for Korean, whether checked by a third party or a software tool, should be an essential part of your translation and localization aims.