Marketing Translation – the difference between good and excellent
Translation and quality is a very complex subject. It’s often invisible or impossible to fully test, to the buyer. And it’s just as often hard to quantify what really constitutes quality. One thing that is really clear though, is that when you read something in your own language, the quality just shows. There is a tiny difference between “good” writing and “excellent” writing. It’s just a feeling, and the recipe for creating it differs across genres and different types of writing.
This is because translation is comparable to an art: having two languages is like having two arms. You’re perfectly equipped to paint a picture, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to be any good at it. That takes training, practice and, we believe, a certain degree of natural talent. Just because someone ‘does’ it, they aren’t necessarily good at it – and certainly not all of its different forms and styles. To someone with no knowledge of another language, it can be difficult to spot the difference between a ‘good’ translation (that communicates all relevant information) and an ‘awesome’ translation, that just feels like a pleasure to read. Here are six differences between a good translation and an excellent one:
Research BEFORE you start
The standard method is to get stuck in and carry out any research for any terms you might hit along the way. That’s pretty flawed. A translator’s flow is broken up constantly by stopping to check what a word means, and they’re also unlikely to pay the right attention and give the right time to the process. There should be an organised research process before the pen ever meets paper (or whatever the digital version of that metaphor is) where the key concepts, words, and ideas are explored and understood, and all of the aims of the document are clarified. This must happen BEFORE you start the translation at all.
A good translation might communicate all your messages in the target language, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be suitable for the target audience. Each country has its own culture, which means some references, jokes or sayings aren’t necessarily transferrable into another language- and an excellent translator will recognise this, finding an equivalent for the language they are translating into. In marketing translation, this is hugely important. Not only is this important to ensure comprehension of your content, it also prevents the risk of offending any of your target audience with sayings that may have very different meanings for them, or losing their engagement by referring to references, people or events that don’t carry the same meaning for them.
Even the most talented linguist may only be able to achieve a ‘good’ translation if they don’t have a depth of knowledge in the field that you need translating. This is because they might not understand the specificities and nuances of words used in the source language, meaning an exactly accurate translation might not be possible. This is sadly far too common. It’s considered a golden rule of the translation industry that translators must only translate into their native language. It makes sense when viewed from the perspective of the fluency of the finished text, but it means that too often documents are translated by linguists who don’t fully appreciate the elegance, richness or the real intent of the source language.
At Integro, we consider that unacceptable – and the answer is better onboarding and a better process, with the exploration of the concepts within a text and the aims and objectives of the document prior to translation.
Accuracy VS freedom
It goes without saying that a translation needs to be accurate. However, for a translation to be excellent, it should fit the objectives of its owner. In some cases, excellence requires freedom and a linguist who can sense where they need to maybe depart from the format and flavour of the original. When it comes to marketing translations, being our area of specialisation, that becomes even more important. The goal is to produce not a translation, but a document that feels like it was written for you, by someone like you. That is quite a different task and requires creativity and input from the exact right translators.
It mustn’t feel like a translation
While a good translation will effectively communicate all information from the source text into the target language, an excellent translation should not, to the reader, feel as if it has even been translated. They should not have an inkling that the text was originally in another language. Every sentence should flow naturally in the target languages, and references should be relevant to their cultures. Not only will sentence structure be flawless, the target languages’ laws of grammar and punctuation should be adhered to precisely. Of course, this will ensure complete comprehension of the translation, but will also mean the translated document appears professional and credible. Again, the aim should be a document that feels like it was written for you, by someone like you.
A full quality process. Proofreading is good… but not enough on its own.
A translation can only ever be ‘good’ until it has been proofread by another translator. Note that we said translator, not just someone who speaks that language. That comes later. Proofreading doesn’t only reduce the risk of mistakes in typos and misspelling, it is also a way of ensuring that the first translator has effectively communicated all the information from the source text with as much loyalty as possible. The proofreader, therefore, needs to have all the same skills and all the same information as the original translator. They must have an equal opportunity to ask questions and check the translator’s research. Translation proofreaders will mark out any concerns they have about word choice, sentence structure, and punctuation.
But that’s just the start. At this point, if you allow the proofreader to have the final say, we’re still completely relying on the subjective opinion of just one person. So the feedback from the proofreader goes back to the translator and they work between them to agree on the best solution to remedy any disagreements. The synthesis of the ideas of these two linguists is then what we call a ‘final draft’.
That final draft is then subjected to a native language review, where it is read independently of the source text to ensure it feels and flows like a native document, and that it can completely stand on its own two feet.
At Integro, we consider those the minimum requirements for anything we would consider ‘excellence’.
Of course, language is subjective, and there is always a range of ways to express anything – that’s what makes the world so rich and enjoyable. But, we believe that excellence always shows and that quality is easy to recognise.