IN THIS ISSUE, MÓNICA MACHADO, ENGLISH INTO PORTUGUESE TRANSLATOR, IS INTERVIEWED ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF ASKING QUESTIONS DURING THE TRANSLATION STAGE
Interviewer – If a translator is specialised in a given subject area, why will this professional raise queries?
MM – Queries are an essential part of the translation process. Asking questions is a sign that the translator is following the text and working to convey the message accurately. Translators will work with texts from many different authors and everybody expresses themselves differently. Sometimes, when a text is not clear it is essential to contact the author to clarify text meaning. Translation is about text interpretation and we must ensure such interpretation is correct. Sometimes that assurance can only come from raising questions with the author.
Interviewer – However, is the translator not meant to only translate the text as is? Surely, querying a text that was professionally written may upset the author or look unprofessional?
MM – In my experience, authors that speak more than one language understand the problems faced by translators. They know that language is not a straightforward science and that sometimes words have many different meanings in different contexts. This is why translators need to ask questions.
Interviewer – What sort of queries do you raise when translating?
MM – I do try to minimise the amount of queries sent to clients but all the queries I raise are intended to improve the original, making it clearer and therefore enabling me to provide a better translation. Queries can vary from meaning of very technical words not yet available in the target language market, to consistency issues. When a text reaches the translator it has been prepared and reviewed by different experts, however the translator is often the first reader to read it entirely and this reading may spot terminology or content inconsistencies. My queries aim at solving any such issues.
Interviewer – So would you say that your translation is better than the original you receive?
MM – No. My translation has to be as good as the original since it must reflect the original. However, my queries often help authors to improve their texts and then in that sense the translation will be better than it would be if there were no queries at all at translation stage.
Interviewer – On your website, you have an impressive feedback from clients. Does that mean clients don’t mind the queries?
MM – My clients appreciate my comments, be it on spelling, context or consistency. Some have worked with me for many years now and they trust my service. They know I will translate their texts as professionally as possible but will also raise issues when I think something could be improved in the original documents. If I receive a letter for translation with a misspelling on it, that slip is not relevant for translation. However, it is relevant to my client’s image as the original will also be used and read elsewhere, so that misspelling could have an impact, although not in the translation and not translation related.
Interviewer – From what you say, could I infer that sometimes raising queries is a value-added service rather than a sign of inexperience?
MM – Definitely. When I raise queries clients have the opportunity to clarify and improve their text. As queries are part of the translation service, clients will often end up with a better original and a translation that will help them making better business abroad. Better still, this query process is included in the translation rates so there is no added cost.
Mónica Machado is an English into European Portuguese translator, specialised in Oil and Gas, Mining and Geology, Environment, Hydroelectric Power, HSE, Shipping and Business Legal Areas, working for Portugal and Portuguese-speaking African countries, such as Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Sao Tome and Principe.
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