6 Common Mistakes When Choosing a Translation Service

The translation service you choose may prove to be one of the most important investments you make. When being introduced to a new market, most of the people exposed to your information will not know your history. They will not know how outstanding your source document was or the tremendous following you have in your own country. Their understanding of your quality, excellence, intelligence, etc., will all be based on the information they receive in their language. In other words, for better or worse, the translations of your work, not your original documents, are going to represent you to the world.

Given the importance of your translation, you will want to ensure the quality of the final product is perfect. In the world of translation, perfection means that the translated document is of such a quality that nobody can tell it was translated. When a native speaker reads your information and understands the content, finds it linguistically and culturally appropriate, and the intent of your message is intact then you have a quality translation. Quality of this level is not a pipe dream; in fact, it should be your expectation. Let’s look at six mistakes that can hinder your quest for translation quality:

1. Confusing machine translation (MT) with computer-assisted translation (CAT). Machine translation is the process of using computer software to translate a word or phrase from one language to another. Computer-assisted translation is the process of a human translator using computer software to assist their translation efforts. The most common software tools used are indexing systems, glossaries, and translation memories.

While machine translation results in highly inaccurate and poor quality translations, CAT systems are an essential part of high-end translation services. CAT not only increases the accuracy of translations through large or multi-part projects, but it also saves you money by speeding the translation process.

2. Assuming that words that mean the same thing in one language mean the same thing in all languages. Words like large, big, grand, hefty, extensive, sizable, and spacious are synonyms in English and may be used interchangeably. Assuming that they may also be used interchangeably in the target language is a mistake. This is why it is essential your translator has a native-level fluency of both the source and target languages. Simply being bilingual is not enough.

3. Not translating to the local market. In the same vein as assuming synonyms carry equal weight in all languages, assuming speech patterns and idioms are a constant can also get you into trouble. Not only do idioms and figurative speech not translate well from one language to another, they often do not translate well from one location to another even within the same language. Phrases used in the United States may not mean the same in Britain, Ireland, or India, even though they all speak English. Brazilian and European Portuguese contain different phraseology, and the Spanish colloquialisms of Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Argentina, and Spain all contain differences.

When choosing your translation service, be certain that your translator has an in-depth knowledge of the source and target culture. Failing to transcreate figurative language in a relevant way is a sure way to end up with confusion, embarrassment, or even cultural offense.

4. Ensure your purpose comes across in the translation. You had a specific purpose in creating your source document, make sure that purpose does not get lost in translation. Are you trying to sell a good or service? Are you presenting product information? If there is a contract, what is it that you intend for it to do?
5. Not following formatting specifications. Much the same as purpose, the format of your original document was there for a reason. Many times translations will result in format changes which can be troublesome or even critical. In many formal environments, such as with patent applications, the format of a document must be exact. Even a single line out of place could negate the entire translation.

6. Skimping on the post-editing. Even the very best of translators make mistakes. A complete post-edit will catch the errors before they become published and transmitted around the world. We’ve all read about the major gaffes and snafus created when major corporations placed product launch and marketing dates ahead of proper translation editing.

You spent countless amounts of time and effort to ensure your original document was perfect. Take the time to ensure its translation is just as great. When selecting a translation service agency, make sure their translators are experts in the source and target languages with cultural fluency on both sides as well. Make sure they have field-specific knowledge in the area of your text, verify that your purpose is clearly stated, and ensure that a thorough post-editing process is provided. You won’t be sorry you did.

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