Evaluating a translation

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When judging and evaluating a translation, here are some useful tips. Have you ever sat in front of a translation in a language you don’t know and wondered just how correct it is? Have you ever received a translation you weren’t happy with? Do you feel good about the translations you receive?

These are questions factors that every good language service provider (LSP) takes into consideration before sending you a translation. Their job is not only to delivery good translation, but also to make sure that the translation meets the criteria you expect. It is a fact that true quality is delivering what a customer expects. A translation should be accurate, correct, complete and consistent. Style is subjective and further explained in detail in the text below.

First and foremost, a translation should be accurate. It should convey all of the ideas expressed in the original text (the source text) and present these ideas as closely as possible in the target text. The word for “blue” should not be translated as “red” and the word for “screwdriver” should not be translated as “blender”. A translation that is not accurate is a problematic translation and could even get a business into trouble. It is for this reason that both the translator and the proofreader should have excellent knowledge of the source language to make sure that information is properly conveyed. This also includes numbers in the text. For example, a “discount of 20 %” should not be translated as “a discount of 65%” and so on and so forth. If you ever receive an incorrect translation, be sure to make a complaint to your LSP and find out what happened. This should never happen, especially if the text has been proofread by a second set of eyes.

Secondly, a translation should be grammatically correct and contain no syntax or spelling errors. Grammatical rules in a language can vary from region to region, but in the general, the language that a text is translated into, also known as the target language, should follow the current grammatical and punctuation rules in use. Spelling errors should not happen at all nowadays due to the fact that there are electronic means to verify correct spelling. There is little excuse for a translator not to use a spell checker. The same goes for grammar, but this is also why proofreading a text is quite crucial seeing that electronic checkers do not always detect grammar errors.

Thirdly, a translation should of course be complete. Just as important as it is to check a shipment of goods to make sure that everything has arrived, when you receive your translation, there should not be things left out or omitted. Everything is the source text should also be contained within the translation. Upon receiving your translation, you can sometimes check this very quickly by looking at the structure of the source and target texts and comparing layout. You would be surprised at what might catch your eye very quickly.

Furthermore, a translation should be consistent. With respect to technical, medical or legal translations, this is an incredibly important criterion. A word translated on page three should be translated in the same manner on page 12 for example. In a contract, the word for “buyer” should not be translated as “buyer” on page 40 and as “purchaser” on page 41. This would be a prime example of inconsistency. A professional translator should ensure consistency throughout a translation. If you are looking to have document translated and there are already existing translations available, makes sure to give these to your LSP to make sure that ensure consistency among these translations as well.

Unfortunately, style is one of the most difficult aspects of translation and something that causes about 90 % of all complaints in the translation industry. In comparison to the aforementioned factors of accuracy, correctness, completeness and consistency, style is an incredibly subjective element. Everybody on Earth has a writing style of their own. Writing in general is a form of art that will impress a great many and will possibly displease a few, or vice versa.

Due to the difficulty of meeting style criteria for each and every customer, it is necessary to provide feedback to the LSP even after the translation process is over in order to ensure that expectations have been met. An agency might work with several hundred translators in the language combination at hand. If you receive a translation that is correct with respect to accuracy, correctness, completeness and consistency, but you don’t care for the style, makes sure to let your LSP know and they will be able to find another translator for you. *** Remember, there is more than one translation of the Bible and each and every translator will translate a text somewhat differently.

In light of all the criteria stated in the above, in order to ensure that you are pleased with your translation, make sure to let your LSP knows what the translation is going to be used for. An agency generally has a plethora of different translators that are specialized in various fields. If they are aware of the purpose of the translation in addition to any other requirements, it is easier to find the appropriate translator to do the job and, of course, communicate these requirements so that they are properly implemented during the translation and proofreading processes. In addition to ensuring accuracy, correctness, completeness and consistency, this is also one of the reasons that LSPs will also ask if there are any existing translations available that you are happy with so that the proper translator can be found.

If there are several articles in magazine where writing styles should be ideally mixed in order to add variety to the texts, it can be advantageous to use several different translators for a single project. On the contrary, in the case of technical, medical and marketing translations, a translation agency will try its best to use a single translator for a specific language combination for each individual customer. However, this can be problematic depending on the volume of translations at hand and the availability of individual translators.

What happens for example if the translator is suddenly ill or decides to retire? What if a very large amount of text is required over a very short period of time? Well, no worries if your LSP is a good one. Due to this, LSPs should also build up term lists and a translation memory to ensure that your translations remain as consistent as possible despite the need to change or add additional translators. Another idea might also be to have the same proofreader correct the work of different translators to further ensure the consistency and quality of translations.

Judging a translation has a lot to do with knowing what you want in a translation and communicating these needs in addition to having the proper LSP to provide you the advice and consultation you may require. An LSP can ensure accuracy, correctness, completeness and consistency but cannot always ensure 100% satisfaction with regard to style. Yet, by collecting your requirements and feedback, they can aim to please and, in most cases, will ensure that you are satisfied with the translation you receive.

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