Inspired by a recent campaign called “Quality in Translation”, I decided to spread the word and give some tips to translation buyers who may not sometimes be aware that translators are not production lines in a factory. Conveying the same meaning of the message in a different language is a much more complicated PROCESS and to be able to successfully complete this process, translators need to spend years building up expertise in particular fields such as legal or technical translation, apart from the obvious but equally important proficiency in a foreign language.
Today, it is no secret that finding any translator is a piece of cake, but how to find a translator who will create a professional text of excellent quality, with the same meaning as the source text and which reads well at the same time?
1) Strive for the best possible translation every time - consistency is crucial, so when you find a skilled and experienced translator with relevant expertise in a particular field, simply stick to them (and treat them well). Only then will you be sure that terminological consistency is maintained - good translators pay attention to using the same terminology in all translations for a particular client.
2) Only assign projects that allow translators to strive for this goal - this simply means that a high quality translation takes time and costs accordingly. A recent trend towards lower prices and faster turnarounds negatively impacts quality. Just as some wines need to rest before they reach certain standard, translations need to be reviewed and polished in order to achieve the right quality.
3) Do not assign projects at prices that undercut this goal - while you may find that the price of exactly the same product may be lower in another shop, this will not be the case when it comes to translation. Low prices do indicate low quality. Has anyone ever paid £30 for a night in a 5-star hotel?
4) Only work with professional translators translating into their native language - although possible, excellence in a foreign language is very difficult to achieve. Clarity of the message and perfection can only be obtained in one's native tongue, perhaps except for bi-linguals.
5) Only hand assignments to translators specialised in the particular field - since you wouldn't expect your GP to perform a cardiac operation on you, you shouldn't expect a translator without a relevant expertise to handle a specialised translation. Lack of specific knowledge may have disastrous effects: from a wrong use of terminology to producing a text which is a complete and utter nonsense. Translation is not just about linguistic expertise but also about the practical know-how, and only this combination brings anticipated results.
6) Constantly strive to improve translators by giving them clear instructions and constructive feedback - an emphasis should be put on 'constructive', as there is no point in criticising someone without a particular reason or because the intructions a translator has been given were not clear. This especially works in a long-term collaboration with a particular translator; builds up a fruitful relationship and mutual trust.
7) Actively raise the awareness of buyers about the goals of the “Quality in Translation” campaign - feel free to spread the word and instruct your collaborators or contractors who use translators' services that langauge is a powerful tool to generate profits, and thus it pays off to entrust your language into professional hands.