MQM: A Framework of Customizable Metrics for Translation Quality

Multidimensional Quality: 

Multidimensional Quality Metrics (MQM) is a system that allows you to create a customized tool to evaluate translation quality based on your needs. As the name tells, MQM first admits that the quality of translation can be multidimensional.  The system is based on a new definition of quality translation raised by Lommel, saying that ” A quality translation demonstrates required accuracy and fluency for the audience and purpose and compiles with all other negotiated specifications, taking into account of end-user needs. ” His definition extends beyond traditional definition of translation and tends to unify different metrics, such as conventional requirements of accuracy and perspectives from users and manufactures.

Given these various factors to assess translation quality, MQM is born to organize the metrics into categories. It uses a “family-child” relationship to depict different issue types, which weaves a huge web. The graphic below shows part of the system. The main branches in the graphic are some of the  dimensions of translation quality, and the “twigs” are different specifications of them.



Target-Oriented Feature of MQM:

The biggest difference of MQM compared with traditional QA method is that it is function-oriented and fully-customizable, taking into the project goal for consideration. This can be exemplified well with its “Verify” dimension. “Verify” is used to describe issues where the text is not appropriate to the using environment.

Unlike other issue types, “Verify” deals with extra-linguistic issues. For example, when translating/adapting an employment contract from one judicial system to a different one, the content of the original might be greatly changed to suit the need and legal norms in the target culture. Then the issue goes beyond traditional language quality metrics on terms and language, and focuses on the intended market and readership. In other words, “Verify” cannot be tested unless the target audience and text purpose are provided. Although there are some debates concerned with the dimension “Verify” among language professionals, it is still glad to see that MQM is taking a broad vision of translation practice and QA.


Possible challenges brought by Customizable Quality Metrics:

Although customization allows flexibility with testing rules according to different text type and translation goals, it may also result in inconsistency if different users in the same project do not cooperate closely. Since there are a lot of issue types in this system, it is necessary to create templates or guidance to ensure consistency.

For projects with minute differences, it may also require effort to customize the QA tool for each of them in some cases. However, based on the client’s requirement and limited resources, the user really needs to make decision on whether it is worthwhile to customize it. In addition, it may also pose challenges if the client suddenly changes the goal of the project, as the setting is target-based. Communication with the client on project goals seem more vital so to avoid further adjustment of QA settings.



Multidimensional Quality Metrics Definition

Multidimensional Quality Metrics (MQM): A Framework for Declaring and Describing Translation Quality Metrics

Assessing Translation Quality with MQM


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