Tip #8 – Succeeding with term QA checks

The Challenge of Quality Assurance in memoQ

Contrary to some rumors and assertions, if you have memoQ as your translation project management tool, you don't need other third-party tools (such as Xbench, QA Distiller or Verifika) to check the usual quality parameters, including correct use of terminology. What you do need is an understanding of good, basic QA practice in memoQ. And maybe that starts with ditching the over-configured default QA profile for such work!

Like most "light resources" in memoQ, QA profiles can be accessed in three places:

  • the memoQ Resource Console
  • the memoQ Options dialog, under Default resources (second icon from the left, like the checkmarked icon here, above). The selection here will determine which QA profile is assigned automatically as the default to new projects created afterward. Existing project settings are not affected by this! If you have been using the installed QA default resource in many projects, and you want to change the shipping defaults for that resource (or any other light resource for that matter), follow the procedure described in my article on the challenge of updating light resources in many projects.
  • under Project home > Settings > QA settings (the third icon here, marked with a red arrow in the screenshot below). This is typically where I access QA profiles while working in a project, because as you can see in the screenshot, I maintain quite a number of profiles specially configured to focus on particular matters of concern, often to the exclusion of other QA checks (found in the installed memoQ default) which simply don't interest me and just clutter up my QA results report and get in the way while I examine possible things to correct. In the screenshot below, four focused QA profiles which involve terminology checks are marked with a red box for emphasis.

The settings in one of these profiles (available for download in the online lesson!) are shown here:

There is nothing else selected for checking in the lower half of that dialog tab ("Segments and terms") nor on any other tab of the dialog. There are still quite a few options, and the choices you see above are a matter of personal preference in my routine. You may have other needs generally or in a specific project, and it is often helpful to make a specific QA profile for a particular client's preferences or issues you are likely to encounter in certain kinds of projects. To facilitate making these customized QA checking profiles, I have an "empty" QA profile (which you can see in the screenshot list above); this profile has absolutely nothing selected. Rather than try to edit a copy of the awful default QA settings installed with memoQ, I clone this empty profile, name the copy and then edit it to add exactly what I need. This "empty" profile is available for you to download in the online lesson. To install the customized QA profiles obtained from this lesson, just click the Import new command wherever you access your QA profiles, find the *.mqres file and import it, renaming it or adding a description as you prefer.

Let me explain my choice of settings in the example above.

  • Check for consistent use of terminology: I was asked recently why I check the terminology in both directions and not just source to target. This was a recent change after I reviewed a large translation by a colleague who had encountered a lot of fuzzy matched segments as a team of lawyers rewrote a pleading for the Nth time, and he was tired and mis-edited a lot of those matches in very long sentences, leaving words in the target that had reflected the original sentence in an earlier version, but where that source text word was no longer present in the new version. Checking in the target to source direction catches such an error. So I look both ways.
  • Warn if forbidden term is used: I find this particularly useful when working with a team that doesn't have its act together with terminology or when the translation memories and LiveDocs reference corpora used are loaded with terms I don't want. I do a lot of translation of anti-trust litigation, and the diversity of language used to describe something like antitrust violation can be a real pain in an international team. It might be called a "cartel infringement" or any number of other things, and the terminology involving statute of limitation (prescription period, etc.) can be even worse. So I often collect these variants in a project-specific term base and mark them as forbidden to help me catch any deviations from the desired term in fuzzy matches which I might encounter or in a final QA check.
  • Check auto-translatables: I use a lot of auto-translation rules to ensure proper formatting of dates, currency expressions and citations; for me, this is "patterned terminology" and I typically check it at the same time that I do a term compliance check. My special auto-translation rules also look for things like non-breaking spaces in these expressions to avoid something like the day and month of a long date showing up on separate lines of the text.
  • Check non-translatables: These are my lists of proper names for people and organizations among other things. A lot of people put these in term bases (usually with the wrong property settings!), but I find it helpful to have the different highlight color in the working grid, and it's easy to attach my non-translatables list to new projects in any language whereas a termbase might not be a good fit with the languages or might have a lot of content not helpful in a project. Using these lists also helps me avoid accidental translation of people's names in German, which has occasionally led to embarrassment if I was not completely focused when I translated. Why both directions? For pretty much the same reasons I do it for terms. Translating board meeting minutes year after year one sees a lot of almost-repetition, but the cast of characters often changes, so the Jörg Seybold on the board in a segment from the old TM might identify as a woman since the last general meeting and go by "Jana" in the meantime. I can also change the sort order in Translation Results list to put non-translatables hits on top of the list to focus my attention on them better.

Still with me? This is a long lesson, I know. And you probably didn't pack a lunch for the long read. My bad.

There's just one more thing I want to mention... selecting the term bases for QA. This possibility was introduced just recently, and if the term base list in your projects doesn't have that little checkbox column for QA in it, it's definitely time to update your memoQ license!

I have five term bases attached to this project, but only two of them will be used as references for terminology QA. In the days before such selection was possible, knowledgeable users would manually select and deselect term bases in the project, which takes a lot of time and often leads to inconvenient oversights. And in a project like the one I'm working on as I write this - with over 40 term bases attached to the project (!!!) - this can be a real nightmare. In fact, the agency client who sent me that project had all 40+ term bases with their many contradictory terms all chosen for QA checks. Ha ha ha. That won't work out at all, but unfortunately most people don't think about such things, and then they drown in the sharky floodwaters of all the myriad false positives in their QA results.

Don't be stupid. Stick to just a few well-curated term bases for your terminology QA or you are wasting your time. I suspect that this is why some people rely on external tools like Xbench for their QA checks, because their memoQ QA is simply configured wrong. In the example shown above, I have an official legal glossary from the Portuguese government and a specific QA term base (ranked no. 5 in the project, written to directly with Ctrl+Shift+F5 as described in Tip 7!) which are used for my quality checks, while most new terms get sent to the #1 ranked term base, which is ignored for QA. If I know that a critical term needs to be checked, I add it straight to TB #5 with my keyboard shortcut and perhaps even fine-tune the match and capitalization settings for that term.

Complete and Continue