From GIGO to QIQO: the quest for quality

GIGO stands for “Garbage In, Garbage Out”. According to Wikipedia, the term was coined by George Fuechsel, an IBM technician/instructor in New York (but see also Michael Quinion’s version, at World Wide Words).

Interestingly (well, it’s interesting if you’re a translator), Wikipedia’s definition of GIGO used to include the following:

Non-computer-related use of the term

The term can be used in any field in which it is difficult to create a good result when given bad input. For example, in translation, it is difficult to convert a source text that is confused, illogical or missing pertinent information into a quality translation. A translator may use the phrase “Garbage in, garbage out” to explain the importance of good source text to a client. As another example, in quality implications, the quality of the materials a manufacturer procures directly affects the quality of the finished product.

Poor quality source material certainly isn’t an excuse for translators to produce garbage translations (that would just make us garbage translators). I’m not talking here about mistakes in source material, by the way — I’ll discuss that in future posts. But poorly written source text certainly makes our job harder.

Sticking with the translation example, you could rephrase Wikipedia’s last sentence above as: “…the quality of the translations an organisation procures directly affects the quality of their international image, reputation and credibility”. Organisations commissioning translations on a lowest-price basis are, frankly, asking for QIGO: Quality In, Garbage Out.

The ideal outcome is QIQO: Quality In, Quality Out. But how to attain it? I’ll be writing more posts on this topic, so keep tuned. And in the meantime, your comments are welcome, as always!

By Marian Dougan

Published by Marian Dougan

Marian is a translator and editor (specialising in web content) currently based in Glasgow, Scotland. Marian previously lived in Italy for over 20 years, working as a language teacher, translator and policy analyst with the British Embassy in Rome. A qualified member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and its Italian-language and ITI Scotnet networks, she is currently Scotnet's Convenor and Deputy Webmaster. From 2003 to 2006 Marian taught translation skills at the Italian Department of Glasgow University and now gives Master Classes as part of the new Masters in Translation Studies course. She also conducts web-writing and usability workshops to help people improve their websites and communicate more effectively with their readers, users and customers. In September 2014 Marian obtained User Experience Certification, with specialisation in Web Design, from the Nielsen Norman Group. She loves language, especially English, and is convinced that learning languages opens up people’s minds and horizons (and increases their brainpower!). To share her enthusiasm, she advises schools and educational authorities on language skills and enterprise. She gives talks to pupils on how to combine language studies with other subjects and so enhance their potential and increase their career options. Marian is an active member of organisations such as: Scottish Council Development and Industry (SCDI); Association of Scottish Businesswomen; Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Scotland. She also loves architecture, design, fashion (British Vogue!), cities and chocolate. She’s a great fan of Twitter and you can also find her on Linkedin.

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