Translation myths that can hurt the quality of translations
It can be difficult to get a good quality translation if you don’t even speak the language. If you aren’t familiar with the process you may not even know what translation questions to ask. There are some translation myths and fallacies that many people believe that if followed can hurt the quality of your translation. The following are some of the most common translation myths:
1) Avoid technology
Most people not involved with translation on a regular basis think of translation technology as computer generated translations like Google Translate. However for professional translators, translation technology consists of software that uses “translation memory” which is a database of previous translations. Using software means that they don’t have to translate the same phrases over and over again and makes translations more consistent and faster.
2) I just need a translator
Having a translation done doesn’t just involve hiring a translator. As with any writing task, a translation needs to be proofread and edited if you want to ensure high quality. An individual translator may be able to do it all on some jobs, but a professional service with proofreaders and editors may be required on larger translation projects.
3) All translations are the same
Not every translation service is the same. Translation providers differ in services they include. One service might offer editing and proofreading as part of a translation while another may charge it as a separate service. Formatting may or may not be included. Rate will vary from service to service as will the quality of the translation and the languages offered for translation and turnaround times.
4) Bigger is better
There is a tendency to believe a large translation agency is going to provide a superior quality of service over a smaller company. However, this isn’t always the case. It will depend on the individual translation requirements. For a highly specialized translation, a smaller company or freelancer who specializes in that particular area may be better. A large general translation job requiring many translators may be better sent to bigger agencies. The service you should use will depend on the specific needs that you have.
5) Source content doesn’t affect translation quality
Not every translation error is the fault of the translator. Poorly written source content contributes to a large percentage of translation errors. If the meaning of a particular sentence is vague or can be taken to mean more than one thing, it is difficult for a translator to be entirely accurate. It isn’t always possible for the translator to communicate with the original writer to clarify intent and meaning. The translator will have to count on research to determine the meaning and this can result in translation mistakes. The better the source content is written, the better the translation you are likely to receive.
6) Translation quality control is the key to a good translation
Quality control measures should be taken, but they shouldn’t be the major focus of the translation process. The focus should be on the quality of the translation itself. Far better to work on producing a high quality translation from the beginning, rather than a poor translation that will need to be extensively edited later. Get it right the first time and quality control later will not be a big issue.
7) Have one translation provider check another provider’s work for the best quality
This may sound good in theory but is usually not the case. When you hire a professional translator to check another professional services work, the focus of the checker often becomes “showing up” the other in order to become the original translation provider themselves. Rather than getting a better quality translation, you will likely end up mediating between rival agencies. For the best translations a collaborative effort is necessary rather than a competitive one.
8) Back translations ensure quality
It is fairly common for somebody to send a translation project to one service, and then send the resulting translation to another service to be translated back to the original language. This is known as a back translation and is done with the idea that by comparing the original text to the back translation, mistakes can be located. The problem here is that while mistakes can be found, it isn’t possible to determine where in the process the mistake occurred. The back translation provider may have made the mistake or it could have occurred in the original translation. Back translations are an extra step that is inefficient and good editing of the original translation is both faster and cheaper.
9) Bilingual employees provide quality feedback on translations
While it is possible to get good feedback about a translation from a bilingual employee, it is usually not the case. Quality feedback usually requires that the one reviewing the translation have the training and experience to know what to look for or the feedback you get is unlikely to be of any use to you.
10) More translators equals better quality
Translators who work with the same clients on a regular basis become familiar with the writing style and tone of the client and produce better translations faster. Changing translators on a regular basis may result in inconsistent translations and lower quality. Working with the same translation team on a regular basis is generally better.
If you have questions on translation or need a translation done, a professional translation service like the one we provide is your best option.
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