Translation Can Only Be As Good As The Information Provided


The Role of a Translator

Translators convert a range of written materials from one ‘source language’ into an assigned ‘target language’ with the expectation that the translated material is as reflective of the meaning of the original source document as possible. Allowances and modifications can be made to localize the translation to respect any cultural and colloquial references and styles that may apply, depending on the objectives of the material being translated. The expectations for a sales brochure, for example, would differ greatly from those for an historical novel.


Working with a client who understands the role of a translator can help the project to proceed without an incident. Expectations are outlined, any special terminology is explained in detail, and the target audience and preferred writing style and tone are clearly defined. Occasionally, however, translators receive a document from a client who has never used the services of a translator before, or who is working on a tight deadline and has no time for a detailed job description and delivers instead a low quality document. When time is of the essence and there is limited opportunity for further dialog with the client, translators face the dilemma of correcting the quality of the work before conversion into the target language, or just correcting the errors that have to be fixed before translation. Transcreation, as the process is known, represents a commitment to client success by delivering the best possible translated document, but if the possibility of needing such services isn’t discussed in advance, some clients can react negatively.

A Collaborative Process

If the use of a translation service isn’t a regular part of your business life, it is easy to assume that you just handover the document and receive a perfectly translated version the next day. Depending on the type of document with which you are working, that approach can certainly work. Rudimentary data sheets or non-specialist policy manuals needing little to no cultural adaptation or localization can probably be managed in such a manner, but if the document is a critical component of a larger business strategy, then translation should be approached as a collaborative effort between the professionals who knows your business best, and the professionals who know the language and culture of the target market best.

Attention to Detail

A successful translation project depends as much upon the preparation of the project as it does on the actual language conversion. For the translated document to match the style and intent of the original source material, a skilled translator will look at more than just the words. He or she will need a detailed understanding of the objectives for the document and how you want that content to portray your organization in the target market — perceptions of size, expertise, growth and ethical culture, for example, can all be directly influenced by tone and word selection. A machine translation tool such as Google Translate will search databases for language pairs in fractions of a second if your need is that urgent, but your message may well get lost in that translation.

This post is written by Andrew Ghillyer, a content writer with Ulatus.

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