Writing a business letter in a foreign language can seem easy if you have the Internet at your disposal and the ability to call friends who speak foreign languages. However, this approach is only suitable for literal translation – it is not about rephrasing the text, making it more readable, about checking grammar, sentence structure, vocabulary and individual expressions specific to a particular market.
If you are writing for an audience living in another country or another region of the world, and you want your translation to look natural and taken seriously, you cannot do without localizing the meanings of idiomatic expressions, metaphors and general formulations used in your text.
An illustrative example of a failed translation is the Chinese translation of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s report Australia in the Age of Asia. This translation contained misspelled sentences, grammatical and syntactic errors, inappropriate vocabulary and difficult expressions, leaving readers with many questions about how it was prepared.
An Australian newspaper argued that “there is reason to believe that the person translating this report relied on Google Translate and not their own language skills.”
Although it would be fair to say that modern professional machine translation systems are significantly superior in their capabilities to online translators and, unlike the latter, are able to distinguish some typical linguistic nuances.
In this article, we will try to debunk some of the myths and misconceptions associated with business translation and outline the main points you should know about such translation.
1. High-quality translation for business requires the participation of many specialists.
You may think that you only need a translator to get the job done, but in reality, it is not enough to get a quality translation. When it comes to organizing an international advertising campaign or translating websites, not only translation is required, but also localization, verification, proofreading, editing, as well as computer layout and file processing.
How long did it take you to prepare a promotional brochure in English? Preparing materials for a foreign language audience will require a little more effort. It is likely that you will need a specialist in a specific field who can check the terminology, and an editor to prepare the final version of the text. You may also need the services of a project manager who will work with file formats and content management systems, as well as coordinate the work of your internal departments.
If you need a notarized translation of documents or consular legalization, then in any case you will need to contact a legal translation agency.
2. Bilingual friends and colleagues can do more harm than good
When you ask friends or colleagues for help in translating business documents or promotional materials, you are at great risk, because they may not be familiar with the subject area or specifics of the specific region for which you need to translate. Even if they are native speakers, they may not be fluent in the language. Or they may be good at the item, but their help may not be as valuable as you might expect.
Don’t get me wrong, bilingual people can be very helpful, but they need to be given clear and precise instructions when it comes to translating business documents and promotional materials. So, instead of just asking, “What do you think about this?” you can ask them more specific questions: “Will the meaning of the message be clear to the reader?” “Is the target audience’s vocabulary used in the translation?” “Is it possible that the message will be misunderstood?”
3. Machine translation is not only Google Translate
Machine translation systems are not limited to the capabilities of Google Translate. In fact, the term “machine translation” refers to professional translation systems designed for a specific topic, using millions of proven translation memory records and a huge amount of technical data. Such systems are able to quickly generate an adequate result for source text adapted for machine translation purposes.
The translated text is subject to further editing by a human translator. The use of machine translation tools increases the efficiency of performing repetitive tasks that can be automated, and makes it possible to use the skills of highly qualified professionals to perform more complex translations.
Machine translation should not be confused with translation management systems. The latter allow you to work with complex file formats and include entire fragments of translated text in the translation memory database. Such systems help the translator to achieve uniformity in translation in cases where the same terms and contexts are repeated in the translation, and often save the customer money in cases where a significant number of repetitions are encountered in large texts.
4. Reverse translation into the original language does not make it possible to convey the original meaning of the message
Recently in my practice there was a case when a customer (advertising agency), having performed a reverse translation from German into English, was indignant when he met the expression “eat a broomstick” in the reverse translation. The fact is that the British. when they do not believe in the possibility of something, they say “it happens that pigs fly”, and the Germans in these cases use the expression “eat a broomstick”. It is because of these nuances that reverse translation cannot be used to determine the quality of the translation. Reverse translations should only be used on rare occasions and performed by a professional who knows how to interpret the results correctly. Engaging independent experts and editors who are specialists in a particular industry, testing in focus groups, and feedback from the target audience are much more effective ways to ensure the quality of the translation.
5. High quality source material ensures high quality translation
You can make every effort to get a high-quality translation, but if the original message is not clear enough from the beginning, it will be difficult for the translator to guess what you mean and express it in another language. For a translation to be of high quality, the source text must be as clear as possible, and the translator must have as much information as possible – background information, style guides, related articles, links, lists of terms – anything that can contribute to a full understanding of the subject. and your message.
6. Work with the same translators
In the course of working on your orders, translators become familiar with your style, terminology and subject area. Therefore, if you manage to find a good translator, keep working with him and train him according to your needs. Even if you have lists of terminology and style guides, it is best to continue to work with translators who are already familiar with the specifics of your materials to ensure consistency in translation.
Contacting several agencies at once can result in a decrease in translation efficiency. Very often translation discrepancies are due to personal preference of the translator or insufficient knowledge of the topic, and you may have to spend a lot of time reconciling versions, although often it is only a difference of opinion.
As you can see, there are many factors that affect the quality of translation of business documents. When you receive a finished translation, you may feel about the same as when you pick up your car from the service and wonder: “What did they really do with it?” In fact, there are different types of translation services – the choice depends on what kind of result you want. A professional translation agency can offer you different options to choose from and provide control over the entire translation process so that your message is guaranteed to be perceived by the target audience.