Nowadays people have a clear understanding of the sense of various concepts. And it doesn’t surprise us, does it? We know a lot today. We use a lot. We believe translation is one of them. If we ask you a simple question “what is a translation?” you will not have troubles to define this concept, but if we ask you to share your thoughts on what translation is not — will it also be that easy?
We want to present another perspective on how you can look at translation.
Translation is not a small, niche market
If you ask a person to describe how they see a translator — most people think of a separate individual who does the translation, it is someone who performs only several projects a year. But the reality is different. Today several branches of translation occupy the market. The largest segment of the market belongs to written translation, followed by on-site interpreting and software localization.
Small agencies provide the vast majority of these translation services. A stunning 26,000 of small agencies exist throughout the world. These companies coordinate translation projects in multiple languages simultaneously, often involving multiple file types, processes, and technology tools.
Across the globe, there are hundreds of thousands of language professionals translating and interpreting. Many translators and interpreters also have direct clients, but most are freelancers whose work comes from agencies.
Translation is not just the exchange of words
Translating is not about putting one word after the other in another language. If that were the case, computer translations would be much better. Translating is about sentences, stories, ideas, images, and cultures.
Translation is not a need fading away
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that by 2020, there will be 83,000 jobs for interpreters and translators in the United States alone. Experts expect this job market to grow by 42 percent from 2010 to 2020, higher than the average of 14 percent for all professions. Globally, the market has a compound annual growth rate of 12.17 percent.
Translation is not obligatory professionally performed
Again, another myth about a translation industry is that non-translator who knows the target language and source language can complete any project.
However, please consider how much of a mess you could get into if you got a non-translator friend to translate an article for your company’s blog. That friend could make a big number of mistakes. It may happen because a friend is not a specialist in this field. Your company ends up paying big time and money for those mistakes. Consider working with people who specialize in translation because they will get you the results you need.
Translation is not that easy
Translation can be a very challenging work. Having to concentrate on two different texts at the same time is mentally exhausting because a translator is flowing between two languages and mind frames. A translator must first read and register source information and then summarize it and present it accurately in the target language. This requires having an excellent vocabulary and appreciating the subtleties in the language such as phrases, metaphors, tone, and intention. Providing a quality translation, therefore, means experience and saving the time needed for a craft.
A translation is not good if the source content is bad
A large percentage of “translation errors” are due to source text which may be poor in style or unclear. Think of a paint job: you can only do so much to hide the scratches and flaws underneath it.
When there are several ways how a recipient can understand a sentence, the translator has to make an educated guess about what the original author intended.
Usually, translators do not even have a possibility to clarify with the source text. They may not get a chance to find out what the intention was behind an ambiguous term. They rely on their research skills and professional experience to figure out the intended meaning, but this is not desirable and can lead to a translation that does not measure up — but not necessarily due to any fault on the translator’s part.
A translation translated by one agency and checked by another is not a good way to keep quality in check.
Many buyers of translations think they are being savvy by paying one agency to translate their content and paying a separate agency to check their work for errors. However, pitting one provider against another does not keep quality in check.
There are reasons which prove this approach is a recipe for failure. First, the focus of the reviewing party becomes “error detection”. To prove they are doing a good job, they will often flag as many “errors” as they can find, even if in fact, many of the changes they are suggesting are preferential. Some providers might hope that if they catch enough mistakes, they will get a reward with the translation work, which is more highly paid than the quality control work.
Second, the customer ends up spending a lot of time mediating between the two parties, and many “errors” boil down to one person’s opinion versus another’s. Third, the entire focus of the process becomes combative instead of collaborative.
A translation is not better after quality control; it is better after quality improvement
For translation quality, the focus should not be on quality control (checking for mistakes). It should rather be on quality improvement, which means producing a better translation from the start.
Would you like to bring home a printer and then have to return it a week later due to manufacturer’s defects? Alternatively, would you prefer a great printer from the beginning?
There are many ways to ensure a good translation from the beginning, but chief among them are providing the translators and editors with the resources so they can understand as much context as possible to uncover the true goal of the communication.
Translation teams who possess glossaries, style guides, support materials, and contextual information can produce a translation of much higher quality than those who are just handed a text with no background.