Which Translation Service Do You Actually Need?


Photo Credit: Milada Vigerova via Unsplash

Photo Credit: Milada Vigerova via Unsplash

Feeling a little lost? Picking the right translation service can be tricky. Sometimes translation providers are not upfront about the process that goes into producing a translation of quality, and sometimes industry terminology can be confusing. How do you choose the service you need? Below is a list of services and processes to give you a roadmap for making the most informed decision about what you’re buying, hopefully from a qualified freelancer.

This is the first and most basic step in the overall translation process. It involves taking a text that is originally in a source language and translating it into a target language. It is best used to create documents of draft quality, such as reference documents or texts meant for internal use and not for distribution.

In the translation industry, proofreading is usually the second step in the translation process (what those outside the industry or in academia would call “editing”). It involves taking a text in a source language and a text in a target language and comparing the two to check for additions, omissions, mistranslations, source interference, syntax, grammar, and spelling. It is usually done by a professional other than the translator. If the translator is proofreading his or her own work, there should be a sufficient break between the completion of the translation and the proofreading to ensure that the translation “rests” and the translator can look at it with fresh eyes.

Quality Management
Depending on whom you ask, this step will be called something different (proofreading, quality management, QMing, QA, second proof, etc.). This is the third step in a complete translation process and involves taking a source text, an edited text, and various reference materials (previously translated files, translation memories, glossary files, etc.) to triple-checking that the file is consistent with these materials and completely free of any objective errors.

Transcreation is the adaptation of a source text into a target language and is often used for branded and marketing content or for culturally-specific content, like jokes. While some think transcreation is “a big fat lie,” transcreation is actually a more complex process that usually produces a text that does not resemble the original but elicits the same feeling in the reader. For example, Coca-Cola’s slogan “Taste the Feeling” is transcreated into French as “Savoure l’instant,” which translates back (literally) as “savor the instant/moment.” The translator who handled this slogan did not feel that a more direct translation would sound right in French, so it was adapted to suit the target audience. This process is more time consuming and requires greater linguistic expertise and cultural knowledge, so it is usually more expensive than a regular translation of similar length.

If an employee with a different native language writes something for your company and you intend to have it published, it is a good idea to have it edited by an experienced translator/editor to ensure that there are no grammar, syntax, or spelling errors and that it reads naturally. This is helpful for press releases, customer service notifications, and even academic articles.

Backtranslation (and Reconciliation)
Backtranslation is when a translated text is translated back (hence the name) into the source language without referring to the source text. It is used as a means for verifying the accuracy of the original translation and is completed by an outside party that did not have any involvement in the original translation. Afterwards, the translator reconciles the backtranslation with the original source text to look for errors and validate the translation.

Sight Translation
Despite what the name suggests, this is not a translation step at all. Sight translation is what an interpreter does when he or she reads a source text and simultaneously interprets it into the target language. This is most common in the medical and legal fields. If you need sight translation services, find a qualified interpreter who can help you rather than a translator.

Certified (Sworn) Translation
Certified translation means providing a legally-equivalent document in another language that will be recognized as such by the courts and foreign governments. Unlike many other countries, there is no body in the U.S. that sets a standard for what constitutes a certified translation or translator and what does not, though the ATA does offer a certification program. The U.S. Department of State says that for certified translations, “The translator must certify that s/he is competent to translate and that the translation is accurate.” This means that a notarized certification of competency and accuracy may be enough, but that might not always be the case. Check with the authorities in the region requesting the translation to ensure that what you’re buying is consistent with their requirements.

This is a unique service that can save customers both time and money. Do you have a lengthy article about your company written in a foreign language or a series of documents of which you need an overview? A précis is a summary of a text that a translator writes in the target language after reading the text in question in the source language. If the content of the précis shows that the text merits full translation, the customer can proceed. If the summary is enough, the client saved the time and money that would have been required to translate the entire text.

Do you have questions about translation services? Feel free to comment or ask your question on Twitter using the hashtags #xl8 and #t9n. Mention your language pair and a veritable army of translation professionals will be at your service in no time!


2 thoughts on “Which Translation Service Do You Actually Need?

  1. Pingback: The Great Transcreation Debate | Ben Translates

  2. Pingback: The Basics of Back Translation | Ben Translates

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