THE RECIPE FOR A GOOD TRANSLATION

We all like a good dish…we all like a good translation! Many people believe that translation is an easy thing and all you have to do is changing words into their equivalent literal words. This is not true since some phrases if translated literally, would make no sense.  If you do, your final translation will result in one similar to one done with a machine translator. Machine translators basically, provide a literal, word-for-word translation, which leads to a terrible result. We all know that!

Just as a well-experienced chef needs to know the tips behind a bunch of ingredients and knows the precise amounts to use, a translator needs a very good knowledge of vocabulary and grammar in both source and target languages.  Metaphors, synonyms, proverbs, and locutions can help choosing the right word, just as the correct spices help to give more flavor in cooking.

Probably, the main quality ingredient for a good translation is that when someone reads the translation, that person should think that it was originally written in that language. It must flow naturally and clearly. Other important aspects to consider are the consistency and the accuracy. Therefore, the translator should not say anything that is not in the original text or omit something that appears in it.

It is recommended before you begin the translation of the text, you do a thorough reading of the content to have a general knowledge of the subject, and to search for necessary information. This also enables you to check if the original material is complete and that you are familiar with the subject matter.

Use any reference material, style guides, glossaries and terminology databases. Never ignore any glossary that has been sent to you. If the client has created a database, use it. It is essential that you are consistent in terminology and style with previous work. It may be the first time you are translating a particular piece or set of files. It may be the first time you are translating for a particular client, but they surely will expect consistency in style and terminology.

It is normal to sometimes face doubts or difficulties when translating a document. Do not be afraid to consult colleagues or other linguists when you get stuck.

Just as in gastronomy, there are different types of doneness (how thoroughly cooked a cut of meat is) a good cooker would do the necessary to serve the guest’s choice. Likewise, a good translator needs to discuss with the client about the kind of translation he/she wants, the intended message, the target audience and any information that will determine the style of translation required.

Cooking time is also very important…whether you are roasting, frying, or baking you need some time.  Same with translation: take your time, read thoroughly, do some research, pay attention to details such as language nuances and ambiguities you may find. Don’t over translate or under translate just because it “sounds” better to you that way. Do not try to finish your translation project in a rush. When ordering a translation, make sure you allow reasonable time for a good job to be done. However, do not overcook it either: meet your deadline!

For the finishing touch and ensuring a high-quality translation: the form, not the content may need to be improved in order to be read easily. Therefore, ALWAYS review your translation. Check the grammar, check the style, check syntax, and check typos and spelling.

As a golden rule:

Translate meaning not words!

Rely on your wits and savvy – it can prove to be helpful when translating a difficult text

Ask a specialist or a native speaker to proofread your translation so that it sounds natural

Never accept a project which you know is not within your abilities

Skills and translation expertise come with time – remember it!

Language nuances do matter when making a professional translation

A good translation is worth taking time for!

The way documents are organized in one country may not be understood in another

Emulate the original style of the author, be it humorous, wordy, with colloquial or scientific language, etc.1

You are a translator – You have good taste! Enjoy!

1 http://www.all-translations.com/translation-tips.html

Claudia Ramirez
Claudia Ramirez
Born in El Salvador, Claudia Ramírez is a Lawyer, proofreader, and translator with over twelve years of experience including translation of literary texts. Member of the International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters (IAPTI), European Association of Translation Studies (EST), and Asociación Latinoamericana de Estudios de Traducción e Interpretación (ALAETI). Claudia translates from and into Spanish, English, Italian, Portuguese (Brazilian) and French.

3 Comments

  1. Sayed says:

    Thank you Claudia. This is a good blog. Keep going dear.

  2. Nathan Cowell says:

    A perfect golden rule to live by. The translation when read is vitally important to sound natural.

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