It’s easy to intuitively identify when a document or a speech has been poorly translated. Poor translations come across as jagged or disconnected. Often, the original message has been misunderstood or misrepresented. Typically, personality and individuality have been removed so that the communication feels flat and lifeless. These translation missteps are easy to detect. But how do we identify a successful translation?
Every translation is an interpretative act, but it also is a creative one. It is not a static process but one that is vibrant and moving as the language unfolds.
Antonia Lloyd-Jones, a professional translator who translates Polish to English, said in a recent interview, “A good translation is imperceptible. It reads as if it were written in the language into which it has been translated.
“Within the text, the translator is invisible. Great translation removes the barrier imposed by an unfamiliar language and allows the writer to communicate directly with the foreign reader.
“It also captures the voice and music of the original as the writer intended it to be heard and reproduces it in a way that is audible to the new, foreign reader. It is sensitive to the meaning, effects and intentions of the original, but also to the best ways to render them in the target language.”
A well-executed translation is as distinctive in a second language as the author’s voice is in the original language. It captures the spirit of a text without slavishly following it to the letter. It captures the energy, voice, and style of the source document and replicates them correctly so that the targeted culture understands and is motivated to action.
If your company is new to translation, the following tips can guide you to achieving the best translation.
1. Avoid machine translation. Humans still have the edge over machines. The Human vs. Artificial Intelligence Translation Challenge organized by the International Interpretation and Translation Association (IITA) and Sejong University delivered a resounding victory for human translators. While machine translation has come a long way, the ability of the human brain to convert text from one language to another outstrips the capability of computers.
2. Select your translation company in advance. Last-minute decisions result in greater stress, increased costs, and lower quality. Do your research and find a translation company that fits your needs before you are pressed for time with a project. Then, once you begin a project, you’ll have the best company in place.
3. Make sure your translation team understands your style. Your company’s brand has a distinct voice and tone. Your translators should be able to represent your style throughout the translation process. Communicating your brand correctly will put your company on the road to success.
4. Include localization. This is really no longer an option. The best translation of a foreign language is done by native translators—people who actually know, understand, and live or have lived within your target area. These local translators will represent your company well because they are familiar with the nuances of the local culture and vernacular. The ability to communicate correctly on the world’s stage is imperative. Doing it right will save your company money, preserve your reputation, and increase your marketing ability.
5. Plan your translation schedule in advance. Many companies translate one document only to discover that they need further translations. Planning is key to consistency and success. It also teaches you how to avoid last minute panics and the additional expenses. The best translation work is done when a translator knows the scope of the work and can creatively approach the entire project in a calm and professional way.