The QT21 Project: Quality Translation in the Twenty-First Century

We live in a world where technology allows us more communication and collaboration than ever before. News, ideas, and knowledge can be shared at the touch of a button. This explosive growth in data highlights language barriers. In Europe, for example, these language barriers “hinder online commerce, social communication and exchange of cultural content, as well as the wider deployment of pan-European public services“. The QT21 project is intended to help address the need for more translation. FIT is involved in QT21 to help translators benefit from changes in the translation industry, such as increased interest in machine translation (MT) on the part of users and providers of translation services around the world.

QT21 is focused on Europe, as a part of the EU’s Horizon 2020 effort, but the results could
impact other multilingual markets around the world. While most of the partners in QT21 aim to improve machine translation, FIT, the International Federation of Translators, points out that MT alone cannot meet the translation needs of today’s world. For some requirements, raw MT without any human post- processing is appropriate, but for others, human translation without MT is needed, and there is a spectrum of types of human involvement with MT between these two end points. In order to most effectively bring about the necessary advances in communication, MT researchers and professional translators will need to collaborate more effectively than in the past.

FIT has two roles in the QT21 project: dissemination of information about QT21 and development of a new system for evaluating translation quality. The dissemination role includes maintaining an open dialogue. FIT informs translators about developments in MT within QT21 and gathers feedback from translators, which will be passed back to MT researchers. The translation quality evaluation role is focused on MQM (Multidimensional Quality Metrics). As implied by the name, MQM is not a single metric but rather a family of related metrics, each based on a customized set of requirements. One feature of MQM is that it can be used to evaluate the quality of any type of translation, human translation or MT. This allows a side-by-side comparison of human and machine translated text relative to a particular set of requirements. Another feature of MQM is that, thanks to QT21, it has been harmonized with DQF (Dynamic Quality Framework) developed by TAUS. A third feature of MQM is that it is freely available to everyone.

FIT’s involvement in QT21 has several potential benefits to translators. One is the increased dialogue between MT researchers and professional translators mentioned above. As Mike Dillinger said in his 2016 AMTA keynote presentation, MT researchers and MT users (including translators) seem to be living in parallel universes. QT21 provides a way for these two communities to communicate. Another benefit is that some professional translators will be brought into a FIT-internal project to try out MQM for the evaluation of human and machine translations of the same source text. Such comparisons will lead to a third benefit of QT21. They will help create an additional role for professional translators: language services advisement. Human translators will be able to give advice to those requesting translation services and justify it based on transparent analysis of needs and evaluation of results.

So how can you, as a professional translator, get involved in QT21? First, you should learn more about the QT21 project. The official QT21 website is focused on the MT research aspects of the project, so better place to start might be the FIT webpage about QT21. There you’ll find access to FIT’s QT21 blog, as well, where we encourage you to post a comment or question and to contribute in this way to the interesting discourse on the advantages and limits of MT.

Another resource is the FIT position paper on MT. In addition, you can learn more about MQM-DQF at and post to the Tranquality forum. At some point, you might consider becoming a language services advisor while continuing your translation activities, so that you can help others decide which methods of translation will best meet their needs.

Thanks to FIT and the QT21 project, new opportunities are opening up for human translators to increase their understanding of, and therefore derive benefits from, the marriage of human translation and MT; human translators can view MT as an opportunity. With the staggering amount of text that needs to be translated in the different sectors of today’s world, the most feasible approach is to employ both MT and human translation and to integrate them in various ways. As Eleanor Cornelius, liaison between FIT and the QT21 project, pointed out in a November 2016 lecture in London (see, it is in the best interests of the translator community to actively engage with the MT community in general and learn more about the MQM approach to the evaluation of translation quality, in particular. For professional translators, the future is bright.

Do you have questions or comments about the QT21 project? Visit to share your thoughts!

  • Published: 6 years ago on 9 March 2017