Making sure your translation is really a "translation"

Posted by Audrey Dubois-Boutet on Mar 9, 2011 Mar 9, 2011

Translated document = Original document
The definition of an English to Spanish translation states that “an English document will be converted into a Spanish document". But for a translation to truly be a translation, both of the documents must convey the same message.

Anything less than that is a loose translation, and that is rarely acceptable to clients.

Losing the meaning of the original document is an avoidable mistake, a mistake translators (and interpreters) spend years learning how to avoid.

Now since this is a blog post and not a class syllabus, here are some quick tips for making sure the meaning of a document stays intact:

1. Align the document into a two-column format (i.e. English on the left, Spanish on the right). Seeing the original and the translated words side by side like this may help you catch inconsistencies in the translation.

2. Take a step back from your work. Whether you give yourself two hours or two days, take some time away from your translation, then return to proofread it. You’ll have a more critical eye the second time around!

3. Be aware of what you’re translating. If the subject of the document is complex, take some time to learn about it. Even though you may specialize in that particular industry, it’s OK to need additional research.

Marketing materials are examples of documents that require heavy proofreading. During production, they encounter rigorous brainstorming to come up with the perfect message to express. Studies and focus groups are used to make sure the message resonates with target markets. With so much time and effort put into marketing materials, it only makes sense that companies expect translators to be true to the message.

At the risk of sounding dramatic, I’ve seen documents where retaining the meaning can actually mean life or death. In those cases, I like to lean on the side of “life”. But that’s just my opinion…

Topics: Translation