Translation – An Undervalued Profession!

If you believe everything you read these days interpreters and translators will soon be replaced by machines!

The problem is that translation is more than just finding equivalents.  A good human translation is likely to include cultural elements and use these references in culturally relevant ways that are beyond even the most sophisticated software

Did you know that the simple three letter word “run” has 645 distinct meanings?  A machine translator chooses from the more common meanings – it cannot take account of the full cultural and textual context.  Software cannot interpret irony, or hyperbole which may work in one language and not in another.

Getting the Right Translator

So accepting that Google Translate is still stuck with infantile literal translations, the next step is to look at what we should be looking for in a translator and you may be surprised to learn that price comparison is one of the least important factors!

Translators should only translate into their mother tongue (and not from it).  Translation is an art and being fluent in a particular language is not the same thing as being able to translate it. In addition to formal qualifications you should look for someone with creativity and a gift for expression and the written word.

Experience in your industry is also important when you are looking for a translator, as unfamiliarity with vocabulary and terminology is often one of the biggest problems with poor translations. In the same way you wouldn’t hire a lawyer to do your marketing a legal translator, however experienced, may not be the best person to translate your marketing literature.

Proper review of the completed document is vital and therefore for important jobs, an agency may be a better choice than a freelancer. The agency are likely to have a more robust editing, QA and internal review procedure and the experience to give additional advice such as legal implications of a certain phrase.

Cheap Translation Costs More than Money

‘You are what you say’ and your reputation depends on effectively communicating your message to the world. If you get it wrong it is not always easy to repair the damage.   Most of the examples we see online are humorous and concern poor translation into or from English.  However, more seriously there are also many examples of mistranslation at a political and international level which have caused huge offence and been dealt with at an inter-governmental level.

Getting it Right First Time

Ensure that you take account of culture and context to ensure that your message is communicated.  Remember you get what you pay for so you should weigh up the potential long term cost to your business of economising on the quality of the translator.  As a bare minimum you should ensure that you have language and cultural resources in house to ensure that the translation matches your corporate message.  The language that your company uses is the wrapping around a valuable product so make sure that it doesn’t detract or distract from what you are really trying to say by getting the translation wrong.

After all you don’t want to end up on one of the many corporate translation gaff websites!

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