How do you ensure that the quality of your translations is professional?

Five tips for a better translation

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All of us have seen examples of poor translations. Who hasn’t seen pictures posted online of badly translated restaurant menus or roadside signboards?

Badly translated menus and signboards are one thing, but badly translated handbooks, product information, websites and marketing material are something else entirely. How do you avoid embarrassing or serious mistakes in a translation?

Author: Marion Randelshofer, Partner and COO

What in fact makes a good translation good?

Most people can easily agree on what constitutes a poor translation, but agreeing on what constitutes a good translation is trickier to define!

With that in mind, here’s my definition:
In general, the purpose of a translation is to communicate the same message of the original text. The message could be instructions in a user manual. In this case, the translation must ensure that for example, a Spanish machine operator can perform the same actions as a Danish operator and that no accidents occur. This means that the translation must stay as close to the original text as possible. It must not be a creative translation. In another text, for example in a company website, the message of the text may be to convey that a company is credible and professional. In this case, a freer, more creative translation may be required to be able to convey the message to a reader in another country.

In every case, the aim is to ensure that everyone has the same “experience”, regardless of whether they read the original text or a translation of the text. Accordingly, it is not enough that the translation is technically correct. In the case of a superior translation, the reader does not even notice that the text was translated; that the original text was written in another language.

Here are five tips to how you can personally help to ensure that you get a good translation

1. Choose a professional translator

Not all companies use professional translators. In many cases, the translation is carried out by an employee who just happens to have some basic level of competency in the language that the text is to be translated into, or a cheap translator is found online without actually checking his or her qualifications.

Like any other profession, professional translation is a set of competencies. It requires education and training. The international standard ISO 17100 (‘Translation Services’) is a good starting point when looking at the requirements needed in relation to a translator’s education and competencies.
Obviously, language competencies are crucial. A translator should always translate into his or her native language, as well as have a good understanding of the source language. Otherwise, it is not certain that the translator will capture all of the fine nuances in the text.
In addition to language competencies, it is also important that the translator has knowledge of the professional field that the text is about. A translator who is specialised in medical equipment is not the best fit for a text that is about agricultural machinery.

When you have found a translator whom you are satisfied with, you should make him or her your regular translator. This will ensure that your translations are more uniform, and a translator who has already become familiar with your specialised field will also be able to translate new texts faster.

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2. Provide the translator with information

Will the translation be used by a professional or by a layman? Is it for internal use or will it be read by your customers? Will it be used in Europe, or must it also be used in the USA? Is there specific specialised terminology, which you always use in the target language? Have you translated something previously, which you are satisfied with? All of this information is really useful to a translator — remember to tell them!

Naturally, a good translator will make sure that they become familiar with your specialised field but there will always be specific things that they do not know about. This is why a translator is always happy to receive material. The more background material you provide the translator, the better able he or she is to provide you with a good translation.

3. Factor in sufficient time

It takes time to do a good translation. The translator must be allowed to become familiar with the text, find out about technical terms, clarify questions with the customer and do a final read through of the finished translation. Experienced translators normally manage to translate about 2000 words in a single day, but it may take them much longer, all depending on the difficulty of the text. This is why you should remember to factor in time for the translation, for example, when you plan to publish material or technical manuals or when you plan to update your website.

4. Use of language technology

Language technology, such as Translation Memory systems, allows the translator to re-use previous translations. This saves time and it also means that translations become more uniform, even if there is a long period of time between translations or if another translator is used to carry out the new assignment.

You personally do not need to know anything about the language technology, nor do you have to invest in expensive software. A professional language services provider can do it for you.

5. Don’t forget about your source text

If the text that is to be translated – the source text – is poorly written, then the translation will be poor too. This happens when texts are badly formulated, contain too many of the customer’s internal abbreviations or when terminology is used inconsistently. This presents challenges to the translator, and can affect the quality of the translation. Perhaps where you work everyone uses two different terms when talking about the same thing. For example, some colleagues use the term collision guard while other colleagues use the term corner bumper, and everybody knows that both terms are one and the same thing. But for a translator, this is very difficult to work out.

Ensure that your texts are grammatically correct, and that you use the same terminology throughout the company. If you use a lot of abbreviations, it can be beneficial if you send an explanation of these to the translator. Remember too, that the text should be reader-friendly and easily understandable for a reader who perhaps has little or no knowledge of a very specific topic compared to the engineers who designed the actual product.

A professional language services provider can help you to ensure that your translations are of high quality

At World Translation A/S, we provide professional, high-quality translations – regardless of the type of text or language combination you shall use. We work solely with highly trained and qualified native language translators. To ensure that they can provide high-quality translations, their translation competencies are thoroughly tested before they are allowed to join our pool of translators.

Our project managers are language graduates, which means that they are highly competent in managing the translation process and carrying out quality assurance on translations. In this way, we ensure that we provide you with translations of the best quality.

Would you like to learn more about how we can make the translation process easier and better for you?

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