A well translated text is technically accurate, faithful to the original, and at the same time reads as if it were authored in the target language, appropriately conveying all technical concepts and cultural nuances for the specific intended audience using the correct register.
This means that a good translation is always backed up by skilled knowledge of the subject matter, awareness of the context, years of experience in the specific niche market, the capacity to properly adapt any cultural issues, and ultimately by the selection of the sequences of words in the target language that can most aptly convey the intended meaning of the source text.
While a good translation will look practically effortless in its final form, it is anything but.
So, how is this complex result achieved?
- Translation projects should be entrusted solely to proven professionals. The importance of the actual selection of the linguistic resources who will ultimately see your translation projects to fruition is something that is too often overlooked and underestimated. In order to guarantee the best outcomes, you should be confident in your selection —a selection you should always make yourself, rather than entrust it to others, thus opening the door to a choice potentially driven by factors other than true competence.
- The writing style and the degree of complexity of the source text count. A readily understandable, concise and clear source text is not only easier to translate, but will ultimately yield a better translation. Long-winded sentences could create difficulties in many languages; plays on words or obvious idioms/colloquialisms specific to the source language could cause problems too. And when creating software/firmware that will be localized in the future, always account for what we call the “language expansion factor.”
- If at all possible, the source text should be finalized before submitting it for translation. Any revisions made to the source text during the translation process will not only cause delays and potential cost increases, but carry the inherent risk of imperfections being introduced in the translation due to having to re-work any previously finalized language.
- Information is paramount. In order to produce the best possible translation, linguists need to have as much information as possible surrounding the message you are trying to convey. They need to be aware of the scope of the text, the intended audience and its geographic location, as well as any other factors that might potentially influence the style and terminology of the final target version. Possessing this information enables the linguists to perfect a tailored translation according to specifications, rendering the cross-cultural communication all the more effective.
- Reasonable deadlines are key. The entire process of translation is an extremely time- and labor-intensive effort. In order to obtain a high-quality end result, deadlines need to be reasonable. Depending on the nature of the text, a competent linguist should be able to handle between 1,500 and 2,500 words of translation a day; an expert editor will edit at about 1,000 words per hour, while a good proofreader will proof at about 1,500 words per hour. More technically complex or marketing texts might require even more time. A reasonable deadline will also avoid the text being split among several different linguists for translation purposes (a rather common practice in the industry), which could, in turn, produce a translation with potential inconsistencies on the technical, terminological and stylistic fronts.