Here are three simple things to avoid to help you make sure you get the best possible translation.
1 – Incomplete, ambiguous source texts
It’s a myth to think that the quality of the original text has no impact on the readability of the final translation – as the saying goes, garbage in, garbage out.
While any professional translator will query anything that’s unclear or obviously wrong, any ambiguity always runs the risk of misinterpretation, especially if we are unable to speak to the person who wrote the original text.
If continual amendments are made, or a full text is not submitted, there is a further risk of errors creeping in. Lack of context makes for the hardest of translation assignments – short phrases with no feel for how the text fits in to the rest of the document are a minefield for misinterpretation.
Any in-house acronyms or abbreviations need explanation as might any specialist terms specific to your company.
Just take a minute to read through your text before sending it in – your translator is a professional linguist, but they’re not a mind reader!
2 – Proofreading by people who “can get by” in your target language
A colleague who speaks a little of the language in question probably isn’t the best person to ask to proofread a translation – although they may well be familiar with your terminology, their grasp of grammar, style or things to look for when proofreading or editing may be severely lacking. Proofreading by colleagues who only know the target language can cause even more problems, as they have no idea what the original text was trying to say and may twist the message completely.
Ideally, a colleague with a good level of proficiency in the source language and native proficiency in the target language who also has a knowledge of the specialist terminology involved and your company’s requirements is the ideal solution.
If such an individual is not available, we are also able to offer checking by a second translator, which will ensure that the translation is accurate, faithful to the original text and linguistically correct.
3 – Back translations
Translating from English to German then getting someone else to translate the German back to English to see if the original text was properly done will not work. It’s a waste of time and money and completely pointless.
The opportunity for an error to be made is just increased – and it would be difficult to determine which party had made the error.
The simple exercise of putting a sentence back and forth in Google Translate should be enough to show you how quickly meaning can be lost and ambiguities created.
Far better to select the initial translation provider carefully, ensuring they have enough information to do the job properly, and taking care that the text for translation is clear in the first place.
There are of course many other ways to help your translator do a good job – here’s a link to an earlier post with 10 top tips for getting the best translation that you may like.