POOR TRANSLATIONS AND THE IMPACTS FOR THE CLIENTS
Interviewer – You mention quality is very important in a translation. Are translators and translations not all the same?
MM – Definitely not. Like any other profession, choosing the right professional for the project, based on specific quality requirements, schedule and budget is essential.
Interviewer – How would you define a good technical translation?
MM – A good technical translation is faithful to the original, technically correct and written using the rules of the language of the translation, in terms of spelling, grammar, syntax and punctuation.
Interviewer – This seems easy. In your opinion, why is it then sometimes difficult to get a translation right first time?
MM – Essentially, the problem is that translation is not regulated. So, anyone who can speak two languages can actually officially claim to be a translator. These individuals usually have no professional training in languages, translation or writing. Therefore, more often than not the product generated is of poor quality, does not honour the original, does not respect the target language and
may even contain technical or language errors.
Interviewer – You often proofread documents that have been produced below the standards. What faults are more common?
MM – Issues are very varied, literal translations are the most common issue. However, most often I come across issues such as wrong grammar, incorrect syntax and syntax and punctuation copied from original. These issues affect the quality of the final translated document, making it too literal. Sometimes it is even difficult to understand the message of the document, which will affect the reputation of the client and impair the success of the project, when the original document was probably of a high standard before translation.
Interviewer – What do you mean? How can the translation affect the reputation of the client and impair the success of the project?
MM – In my areas of expertise, a translation is often needed for one of two reasons: to comply with a standard request, in which case often the translation is not even read unless something goes wrong (e.g. by law, a maker has to prepare and translate a machine handbook which users don’t often read), or to present an idea/a project to a party for consideration or approval (e.g. a foreign company wants to present a project proposal to a Government body, in which case the translation is essential to present such project). In the latter, for example, if the translation is poor, badly written, does not flow well and does not honour the original, the Government body may ask for a new translation, or shelve or refuse the submission altogether, which will delay the project and affect the reputation of the project proposal.
Interviewer – What would your advice be to prevent translation issues further down the line?
MM – I would advise companies to look for a translator or translation agency the same way they look for a contractor in any other area. Use reliable sources, demand qualifications, ask for references and do not trust their project to the first available person. Scheduling translation in the planning process is also a good idea, so that translation time is allocated properly and translation is given the time it needs. At the end of the day, in a foreign market translation is the face of any business, so it is important to get it right first time.
This interview was first published in Monica Machado Translation Services Quarterly Newsletter. This and other interviews with Mónica can be read here.
Mónica Machado offers English to Portuguese Translation Services, for Portuguese-speaking African countries such as Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Portugal and Sao Tome and Principe in the areas of Oil and Gas, Agriculture and Farming, Environment, Shipping, Mining, Hydro Power, HSE and Social Sciences and International Humanitarian Aid. Fully certified translation services based in the UK. We can also translate and certify translations of educational qualifications, passports, company certificates of incorporation, birth and marriage certificates and similar documents.
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