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Criticising Translators and Translations

Criticising translators or, “I could do it myself but I don’t have the time.”

Sometimes, a translator’s lot is not an easy one, after all, criticising translators is easy. Perhaps because we work in a field in which all human beings are (or consider themselves) de facto experts, namely communication. There is tendency to see translators as drones, who do work which everyone else would be perfectly capable of doing if they weren’t so busy.

When companies outsource projects us, it’s common to hear comments like, “I could do it myself but I don’t have the time.” This is a bit like assuming that, because you are a competent driver, you can put an engine together. Or insisting, “I go on the internet every day, of course I could build a website! I’m just too busy.”

This attitude conceals a lack of understanding which can cause even thick-skinned translators frustration and, sometimes, offence. Translation is a specialised art, and career translators will have spent as much time studying and training as any other professional.

Every translator has been on the receiving end of criticism from someone without relevant experience; and who may not even speak the target language of the translation! At QuickSilver, our favourite in this genre is the customer who sent an irate email accusing us of using Google to translate his document. Why? Because everyone knows that ‘make up’ is something women put on their faces, so the phrase ‘the make up of the committee…’ was obviously an egregious mistranslation.

Criticising translators’ preferences (vs. correction)

It’s important to remember languages are not only constantly evolving, they also vary enormously between regions, and speakers. Paradoxically, most people (linguists and non-linguists alike) are convinced that THEIR version of their language is the “right” one! Consequently, anything we don’t agree with — a turn-of-phrase, or an idiom — is automatically categorised as a “mistake”. Whereas, it’s best to have an open mind when it comes to language use. See our Internal Review: Case Study for examples.

Usually, the best possible result for corporate communications is achieved through the combination of professional linguists and knowledgeable reviewers. 

Find out more: The role of the internal reviewer

Professional expertise

As with all practitioners of those skills which the modern world has downgraded from ‘professions’ to ‘services’, the translator is often defenceless in the face of this sort of criticism. Sometimes the only option is to bite your tongue and explain that, whilst the internet is awash with cowboys and amateurs, a respectable, ISO Certified, LSP will:

  • use only experienced and specialised professional translators (all of whom only translate into their native languages);
  • never use internet translation engines; and
  • have a stringent review process which guarantees not only that the translation itself is of the highest possible quality,
  • but also that it is phrased in an appropriate style or register.

So remember, although criticising translators is easy; professional translators are skilled and experienced linguists. They will repay your confidence.

Find out more: How to be a Great Translator

Pricing levels

At QuickSilver Translate we offer four pricing levels, and we make recommendations to customers based on their business goals and objectives. Which level of service is chosen for any given project depends on: How important is the document? Is it for internal use, or will you send it to clients? How much money are you willing to spend on translating it? How fast do you need it? And, how much review time are you willing to spend internally?

Find out more: Metrics for Evaluating Translations

Find out more: How to calculate Translation ROI

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