It’s easy to detect a bad translation when you see it. And we’ve all seen it – whether it’s in the product description of an eCommerce website, on a street sign, or in a menu of a foreign restaurant. You know it’s bad because of grammar misuse, lost meaning, and sometimes, because it just doesn’t make sense. But how do you identify when the translator has done their job well? What is it that we as professional translators want to achieve?
To dig deeper into this question, we asked our language experts how they define a great translation and what steps they take to ensure success.
We’ve reached out to three of the linguists who consistently go above and beyond with every project. This year, all three have been recognized as “Linguists of the Month” based on their exceptional quality, reliability, and their general amazingness.
Meet Virginia, Vanessa, and Diane
Vanessa has been working as a full-time translator for over twelve years, she works on a variety of translation, editing, and interpretive transcription projects with an emphasis on consumer marketing, pharmaceutical, and biomedical industries. She also has several years of experience working with the film industry, translating commentaries for voice-over and subtitling, and research background in anthropology and social sciences.
Virginia has been working as a translator since 2007 and she has done it all – translation, transcription, and editing work in those years. She is an expert in Life Sciences, Education, Marketing, and Tourism translation.
Diane has been with Multilingual Connections since February of 2017, she has a BS degree in Court reporting and was an official and freelance court reporter for ten years and works with English transcription projects.
What is it that makes a translation great?
Vanessa: Well, at the risk of lacking originality, in my opinion, a great translation is a text that reads naturally and fluidly and which you can’t tell is a translation. Specifically, a good translation will favor idiomatic expressions or wordings over “literal” translations that may feel stilted, even if they are correct. I always endeavor to translate meaning and not just words into the target language and culture. You could say that it’s a case of always looking beyond the seemingly obvious solution.
Virginia: As a translator, I believe that a great translation is the one that conveys what is said between the lines in the original. I consider translators to be writers – they need to be experts in the languages they work with, know their target audience and be creative to reproduce in the target language not only the same text but also the same impact on their readers/listeners. When our translation has the same impact on the audience as the source text does, we can say that we have done a good job.
Diane: For me, a great translation or transcription is an accurate one. I take my role as a transcriptionist very seriously and with intent because I am being trusted to provide an accurate account of what was said. I may be transcribing a record of history, or providing a document that may be used for research, or used as teaching materials, and I find that an amazing and awesome privilege that I don’t take for granted.
What steps do you take to ensure your translations or transcriptions are high quality?
Vanessa: First of all, research. Whenever I start working on a new project, I research the subject, terminology, read articles depending on the project, etc. Then, another important aspect is to know who the target audience is, which has not only a great impact on style and register but also (and maybe mostly) on the cultural component. In this sense, a lot of my work is adaptation. Then again, the degree to which this is true largely depends on the nature/subject matter of the original text. And finally, of course: check, recheck, let it lie (perspective is very important), and go back to your translation later to perform a final check/edit.
Virginia: In order to perform a translation, I first read the instructions to know the type of text I am going to work on, its audience, and the style guide and client preferences I must comply with. I read the style guide carefully and I always refer to it during the translation project. I also make sure to use the correct terminology and tone in accordance with client instructions. Besides, I do the necessary research before and during the translation. Once I finish my translation, I edit it to make sure it is accurate and correct. Lastly, I run the spell checker, verify there are no double spaces, and upload my translation.
Diane: Being a transcriptionist with Multilingual Connections has offered me a broad spectrum of topics to transcribe and to use a quote from Forrest Gump, “You never know what you’re going to get,” which is exciting because that provides me the opportunity to research and learn about a myriad of subjects that I would never come across otherwise. As a transcriptionist, I strive for and want to provide the best possible transcript that I can and I believe you can identify a great transcript by its accuracy.
At Multilingual Connections, we work with hundreds of talented and experienced linguists across the globe who are experts at translation, transcription, subtitling, and more. We pair your project with the right linguist for the job and utilize quality and evaluation processes powered by innovative technology to ensure the highest translation and transcription quality. Have a question about our process or a project in mind? Reach out to us!
Thanks to Virginia, Vanessa, and Diane for contributing to this article and for being such a great part of our linguist team!
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