How to Provide a Perfect Translation

It is easy for many people not working in the translation field to believe that the process of translation is a simple one, like dropping a steak into a grinder, pressing a button, and out comes a hamburger. I have seen big billboards with bad grammar plastered across an entire city,

Vrbovo, Bulgarian Mountains

Pictures of my travels while translating: Vrbovo, Bulgarian Mountains

as if the owner of the company located in a non-English speaking country felt that the process was simple enough he could ask his daughter to translate his text, since she was studying English at school. But how much does it cost to print a billboard and the advertising space across a city or country, as opposed to hiring a native speaker to properly proofread the translation? It only turns into a bad advertisement and a poor investment.

But many customers know the importance of a good translation and proper expression. After all, such impressions affect sales and make an investment more worthwhile. Such customers will scrutinize your work, using the services of someone they trust to verify your quality.

Greece

Greece

And translation agencies will take similar precautions, to ensure that their customers are satisfied with their service and keep coming back to them with more work. In this way the translation process becomes a chain of processes, each one in turn verified by a quality control system.

Fortunately, there are a few tips you can use to ensure that your translation is flawless and that it will win confidence amongst your customers.

Style

This issue is actually contested within the translation community. While some say that a translation should be more true to the original or source formulation, becoming rather pedantic in their expression,

Thassos island, Greece

Thassos island, Greece

others feel that the final product is really what matters and that the expression should reflect the norms and preferences of the audience for which the text is targeted.

For example, a customer writes some text, using idioms and expressions well known in their language or country, the formulation accepted with humor and appeal amongst its population, while the entire concept may seem foreign, or even absurd, in another language.

Many customers might have a solid understanding of the language their text is translated into and carefully compare your translation against their document, quickly pointing out inconsistencies in precise meaning.

Turkey

Turkey

In such cases one must be careful in explaining that a certain formulation simply does not read or come across well in another language and that your formulation remains faithful to the overall concept, but that its expression reads better and will yield more fruitful results.

This principle rings more true when a text is marketing oriented, such as a travel brochure or business proposal. In such cases, before starting on the translation, you might be advised to explain to your customer these principles and your personal approach, offering to provide a short translation sample and suggest some places where they can find native speakers to properly assess your quality. Better than to try and explain all this to a disgruntled customer once the translation is complete and you are forced to justify your deviations from their exact formulation.

Expert in the Field

If the text is somewhat outside your area of expertise, it is still possible to produce a high quality translation, but it may require the help of a consultant. You can research the topic on the web, creating a list of correct glossary terms and accepted formulations,

Montenegro

Montenegro

but often it can be quite useful to have an expert handy to ask questions or go over points you are not certain about. Ideally, the person should be proficient in both languages and know the proper formulations in both.

For example, you translate from French to English and your customer demands native English quality. Ideally, you find an English to French translator who specializes in the material and regularly translates in it. They will have the advantage of frequently reading English source material in the subject and be familiar with the proper terminology and formulations.

In my home made camper van, solar panels on roof.

In my home made camper van, solar panels on roof.

One option is they translate the document for you and you proofread their work. Unfortunately, that would put less into your own pocket, and unless their level of English is extremely good, it is difficult to reformulate poor formulations, making the final product turns somewhat of a bandaid job, not entirely sounding native.

To find your own consultant you can post a job offer on such forums as proz.com or translatorscafe.com, preferably several consultants, as not everyone is always available to answer your questions,

On a public wall in Turkish side of Cyprus

On a public wall in Turkish side of Cyprus

which often need to be answered as a deadline is approaching. From past experience though, finding quality people willing to help you is not as easy as one might think.

Another good option is to post your questions on such site’s as proz’s Kudoz. Before approaching the community you can first search through previous questions before posting your own question. You can usually get good feedback from this forum because those who provided the best answer will get rewarded with kudos points,

Nature park in England

Nature park in England

which earns them more credibility and pushes their profile up in the search results, helping them acquire more work. And for you, if you choose the best selection, award them some points and click the checkbox to add that term to the glossary, you will earn Browniz points, which you can then convert to credit in your wallet, or perhaps more importantly, use those points to gain access to a company’s BlueBoard record to read comments about it submitted by other translators. This is useful when evaluating a new client, as we all want to get paid for our hard work.

Another trick is to use google’s search results to determine the more popular and commonly used term or way of saying something. If the term or expression you chose is not so commonly used, google will often suggest an alternative. Explore the alternatives,

Bratislava, Slovakia

Bratislava, Slovakia

scan through and evaluate some of the documentation they were used on, and make your most educated decision. It may seem like a lot of work, but if your client finds flaws they may quickly lose confidence and try someone else. Then you don’t get any work from them at all. So it is better to invest the time and energy to make sure your work is spot on. Build up your client base, and when you get too much work, simply start increasing your prices. Many customers understand the importance of a quality translation and are willing to pay top dollar for it. Take your work seriously and you will build a successful and lucrative career in this profession.

Schedule

From all this you can see that to provide quality work is much more than spitting it through google’s translator. Fine wine needs time to age properly, and a good translation requires sufficient time for quality control.

Koh Phangan, Thailand

Koh Phangan, Thailand

Generally the proofreading/research stage of your translation will take between one third and half the time of the actual translation, so make sure you manage your time with this in mind. There is nothing worse than assuming you have tons of time, then find out you are running out of it and cut corners on the issues you are not certain of. If you deliver ahead of schedule, you will only impress your customer. If you cut corners to deliver on time, you risk losing them forever, and if you miss the deadline, well, all sorts of problems can ensue because of that and you may lose them this way as well.

Presentation

And lastly, make sure you know how to package your translation in the most presentable manner.

Vrbovo, Bulgaria

Pictures of my travels: Vrbovo, Bulgaria

There are many tricks how to quickly adjust tabs, margins, copy/paste formatting, make text bold, insert pictures and other important formatting work in various programs. Since Microsoft Word is very predominant in the industry, you can check out some quick tips on how to format in Word. You may have produced the most eloquent and bang on translation, but if it will cost your customer time in making it presentable, you are adding an unnecessary blemish to your work.

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madmin
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madmin

Head Honcho at KENAX
After translating and managing translation projects for more than 20 years, I'm happy to teach others the ropes and move on to other interests. My greatest perk from this profession is that it has given me the freedom to work when and where I want, and eventually to loosen the straps and travel freely around the world.
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3 thoughts on “How to Provide a Perfect Translation

    1. madminmadmin Post author

      Thanks for the tips and have corrected. Although, why cannot it be “My greatest perk [that I have received] from this profession”? Now hopefully my bio is perfect! 🙂

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