As we discussed in our previous article, How to Spot a Poor Translation (and Identify a Good One), there are many things a client takes into consideration when reading a translation and deciding whether it’s a quality product. At our translation company, we do the same. When we receive a translation from one of our translators, we try to read and review the translation through our client’s lenses in order to make sure we deliver a translation that will meet our clients’ expectations.
So here are almost ten things we consider in determining if a translation is good or bad:
(SCRATCHING HEAD) WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
If you cannot understand something by reading the translation alone, and need to resort to the source text to try to figure out what something in the translation means, you may either find that the same ambiguity, lack of clarity, or mistake is in the source text, OR the translation was poor and, in many cases, not only vague but also inaccurate.
YOU’RE NO FRIEND OF MINE
False friends are always tricky. If I read the term actual in English and wonder if the translator actually meant present, something is wrong.
TO TRANSLATE OR NOT TO TRANSLATE
Many times we translate long documents including plenty of citations. A good translator knows if there are official versions that must be transcribed. Providing any other translation of those texts, no matter how well drafted those translations are, is a mistake. This also applies to the use of specific terminology used by a specific organization.
Names and addresses are another example where translators tend to question whether to translate. As a rule of thumb, proper names and addresses should not be translated, BUT this does not apply to any and all cases. Sometimes an address contains more information (and meaning) in it than the mere location of a place. For example, if a reporter writes that, in Argentina, major decisions are taken at Balcarce 50, he or she is actually referring to the Casa Rosada (also, the Government Palace, literally translated as Pink House) . “Balcarce 50” in that case is not an address, functionally speaking, but a reference to the Executive.
PUT IT RIGHT
Translators are very cautious concerning mistakes in the documents they are translating, and for good reason. If while translating, for instance, a financial report, the translator comes across a mismatch between the numerical representation of a figure and the number spelled out in words (e.g. 16,000 ten thousand…), the translator should leave the figure AS IS and then, it will be up to the translator to either include a translator’s note mentioning this fact, add [SIC] to indicate the error, or do nothing and just translate the figure as is. However, there are many other cases in which mistakes in the source text are totally irrelevant and there is no point in transferring those mistakes to the translation. I am afraid only experience and common sense will help a translator make that decision.