In the translation industry, solid processes are central to quality. One key process, known as TEP, underlies most of the projects and workflows Language Service Providers (LSPs) handle. TEP is an acronym that stands for Translation, Editing, and Proofreading. When a document is assigned under the TEP process, the Project Management team puts together a 3-step workflow and three different linguists (or groups of linguists, depending on project size and deadline) work consecutively on the document—first the translator, then the editor, and lastly the proofreader.
TEP Process: Purposes and Outcomes
We know that, in writing and translation, errors are an inevitable part of the process. Even the most skilled translator or copywriter can miss a typo or make a minor mistake. The TEP process is a strategic approach to translation used not only to ensure that a text is free of errors and omissions but also to protect the meaning conveyed in the original language by establishing a chain of linguists that add value in each step.
Premium translation and localization services that follow this process offer higher quality translations because they provide layered oversight. The TEP process is the cornerstone of most translation workflows where the expected outcome is an accurate text in another language. However, it can also be a part of broader localization workflows. For example, the localization of different products (such as video games, software, or mobile applications) sometimes requires more complex processes involving text extraction, layout design, transcreation, dubbing, testing, and more. Embedded in these workflows, the TEP process can enrich the quality of the localized texts to ensure accurate and culturally appropriate products for the intended audiences.
Breaking Down the TEP Process
We view the TEP process as a whole, but each step in the workflow has its own purpose. While the process may vary slightly between LSPs or projects, each stage is generally handled as described below.
Translation: The Kickoff
The first step in the TEP process is translation, which is conveying meaning from one language to another. Context is extremely important at this stage. Translators consider not only the language and country of origin but also the regional language variant. Additionally, the linguistic team uses the client’s preferred computer-assisted translation tool, leverages the client’s translation memory and termbase, adapts the text to the target audience, and follows a general or specific style guide for all projects.
Editing: The Quality Assurance Check
Editing is the next, and arguably most important, step in the process. After the text is translated, editors verify that the translation is accurate and aligns with the rest of the passage. Editors read both the source and target texts so they can spot any mistranslations or omissions. They review and analyze the translation to ensure it is true to the original text, while also making stylistic, grammatical, and syntactic edits. Since translators sometimes unintentionally copy structures and words from the source text, editors pay close attention to style, rewriting sentences in a more natural way and checking to see if there are better words that preserve the meaning and cultural nuances in the original text.
Editors also strive to incorporate extra-linguistic conventions and country preferences, such as the way dates are written or government agencies are referred to. The editor is ultimately responsible for making sure that the translation is clear and complete. Translation services that do not employ the TEP process will often jump to the proofreading step without this thorough review.
Proofreading: The Final Eye
Proofreading is the final stage of the TEP process. The proofreader’s scope is more limited than the editor’s; their task is to scour the target text for any grammatical, punctuation, or spelling errors. During the translation and editing steps, the text is written and rewritten; when editors fix different issues, they may introduce unintentional mistakes such as typos, double spaces, missing words, repeated articles, and misplaced commas. Proofreaders scan the final text to fix any of these problems. Just like editors, proofreaders will also consider stylistic guidelines, if any, to make sure the target text complies with the requirements.
Usually, proofreaders or Quality Assurance Managers oversee this last step. In addition to manual proofreading, they can also check the text with quality assurance tools, like Verifika or XBench, to fix any errors the human eye may fail to spot.
Putting Quality First
The TEP process is an option within a range of different solutions aimed at ensuring quality in localization services. Project Managers (PMs), in consultation with clients, may opt for it through informed decision making that takes into account the stakes of the project, the client’s specific needs, the context of publication, and other factors. There are simpler workflows—such as translation and editing (TE) or translation and proofreading (TP)—that can be helpful in specific scenarios. And for sensitive materials, clients and PMs may even adopt a translation, editing, and editing (TEE) process, which means two editors will review the translation consecutively.
Furthermore, it’s important to note that the TEP process is not necessarily the only workflow available in terms of quality assurance. Given that delivering high-quality, appropriate, and accurate localized texts is the final goal of any LSP, the Project Management team can decide, in consultation with the client and other project stakeholders, whether additional steps are required. These can include post-layout review, in-context testing, or back translation, among others.
To ensure quality translation services, it’s best to go beyond workflows that just involve translation and editing. Without the knowledge that both an editor and proofreader bring to a project, clients run the risk of delays or even additional costs to correct unnecessary translation mistakes. The three-step system protects clients from poor translations that diminish the results they wish to achieve and ensures easy reading for audiences.