Quality is the primary goal of translation. Profit is not. The translation industry makes a big mistake when pursuing profit with no regard for quality. For freelancers, this means money should only be made through quality work. For agencies, this means having a clear quality standard.
One way to measure quality in Japanese to English translation is that the translated English document should be clearer than the source Japanese document. By nature, the Japanese language is more ambiguous than the English language (one example is the frequent omission of the subject). A literal translation of a Japanese document would, therefore, render an unclear English translation. And a properly translated English document should sound even clearer than the source Japanese document.
Quality must take place both ways. Translation agencies contribute to quality just as much as the translators. Agencies should provide concrete feedback to translators; translators should respond to such feedback in a timely manner. It’s easy to identify a translation agency that disregards quality. One indicator is if they outsource “TEP” (translation, editing and proofreading) to a single freelancer. Hiring one freelancer to do all three functions defeats the purpose of the TEP quality assurance process. Another indicator is if a translation agency does not disclose their quality assurance process. Agencies should not hide how they select their contractors, as well as the steps they take to make sure their contractors are doing their jobs properly.
Both freelance translators and translation agencies should place primary emphasis on quality. The collaboration of such “quality-minded” individuals will be beneficial to all parties, including freelancers, agencies, clients and the clients’ customers.