What is ‘Quality’ in Translation? Part 2
Just as each word, sentence and paragraph in a piece of marketing collateral must be weighed up carefully, both to judge its individual impact and its relation to the document as a whole, so it is with the translation of that document. And if it can be a long process to hit on the right word or phrase in the original, imagine how difficult it is to find the right translation!
Very, very often, what it comes down to is a question of preference:
- Preference for a certain translation of a word
- Preference for rendering a certain verb form in a certain way
- Preference for longer sentences
- Preference for shorter words
In the same way that the original text represents one out of several possible versions, and is a compromise between different approaches to the job, a translation often reflects but one of a variety of possible perspectives. Crucial here is the understanding that no translation is the only possible ‘right‘ one.
Once we are assured that there are no ‘technical’ or ‘mechanical’ errors in the translation, the precise details of the phrasing simply reflect the experience and preferences of the translator. One of the great banes of any translator’s life is that people routinely confuse ‘preference’ for ‘correctness’; they assume that there can be only one ‘correct’ way to translate something. More often than not, this ‘correct’ version will do no more than indicate their own preferences.
A good translation conveys the meaning of the original accurately and fluently in the target language.
Rather than cram the original concepts into the target language, optimum quality translations adapt the core message to the target audience. A free translation is not necessarily less accurate than a literal one.
The ultimate judges of quality are your readers, who should be able to read the translated text as effortlessly as those who read the original. Attaining that result is the ultimate benchmark of a successful translation.