By Kleber Palma
Organizations working with limited English proficient (LEP) populations need to obtain proper translated materials in order to provide fair and accurate services. Many government agencies hire independent contractors in order to save time and money. However, discerning whether the services being contracted out are of an acceptable quality can be tricky. An outsider may know the targeted foreign languages your community needs, but not necessarily the terminology of the business being conducted. It can also be difficult for organizations to ensure that all documents translated by a contractor remain consistent with one another, since translation companies use a wide range of freelancers all over the world to do the actual work. Lastly, it goes without saying that avoiding gross errors and omissions is a strict requirement of all who provide this much needed service.
In addressing these issues, I have found that the following strategies are an effective way for organizations to help ensure translation quality:
Quality Assurance with Contractors Begins during the Request for Proposal (RFP) Process
Internal Strategies That Will Help the Cause
Be prepared to provide contractors with appropriate guidance and direction, instead of simply criticism. Contractors need to hear what they are doing wrong – and right – so that they learn your preferences and apply them on future jobs.
Kleber Palma serves as the Director of the New York City Department of Education's Translation and Interpretation Unit, which he established in 2004. The unit is responsible for providing translation and interpretation support to more than 1,400 schools that serve a highly diverse student population of over 1.1 million. Prior to assuming this role, Mr. Palma was the Director of the Los Angeles Unified School District's Translations Unit (the second-largest school system in the country), a Language Specialist for the Federal Bureau of Investigation , and a Translation Services Manager for a private firm in California. Mr. Palma has also had years of experience as a freelance Spanish translator and is the Managing Director of Palma Communications, a language access consulting firm. He holds a BA in International Relations from the University of Southern California and an MBA from California State University, Los Angeles.