What makes for a professional translation?
There are multiple aspects to producing a professional translation. Translation is part art, part science. And, from experience, we can tell you that no two translations will ever be identical, which is why people keep re-translating famous books; someone always thinks they can do a better job!
But given that, lets have a look at some of the key aspects to professional quality translation.
- Good quality master content. The translator can only work with what he/she is given by the client. If the writing in the original document is not up to scratch, it is very hard to create a professional translation. At the very least, all master content should be fully edited and proofread prior to translation beginning.
- Context. In translation, context is king. Translators need to know the context the text will be presented in, both grammatically and physically. The word "link" can be translated in many ways; as a noun (a link), as a verb (to link) etc. etc., and while it is the same word in English (link), it may not be in the target language. It is also good to know how the translation is to be presented physically; who is the audience, what age group/gender/socio-economic group will be viewing/using this translation?
- Translator competency. The translator needs to be highly skilled in their target language. As a general rule it is always best to work with translators who are native speakers of the target language. Often, it is a good idea for translators to work in teams; one is a native speaker of the source language and fluent in the target, the other a native speaker of the target language and fluent in the source language. This way subtle meanings and nuances can be passed on to the translation that may otherwise be missed.
- Fit for purpose translator. The translator needs to have a good understanding of the subject matter and vocabulary/jargon. Most English speakers would really struggle trying to understand completely a real estate sales contract; that's why we use specialists (lawyers) to check them and explain them to us. Likewise the translator needs to be fit for purpose. They need to have the knowledge of the specialised jargon in both the source and target languages.
- Editing and proofreading. All professional translations need to to be fully edited and proofread, preferably by a translator who did not take part in the initial translation. Mistakes do happen from time to time; no person or system can ever be perfect, so as part of the translation process ensure you integrate a proofreading and editing stage.
- Time. Yes this does play a big part in the quality of the translation. A good translator can normally translate around 3000 source words of text (that's about 8 - 10 x A4 pages) a day (depending on the complexity of the content). Asking any more of a single translator is looking for trouble. If you have a job that needs quick completion, consider splitting it up over multiple translators, but use a single editor for consistency.
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