Translation quality is serious business. Under the best circumstances, a poor translation will give you a laugh. Under the worst, it will have serious consequences on your company, resulting in a damaged reputation, loss of customers, or concerned investors. This is why editing is so critical for any text that will be used for anything other than information purposes.
Let’s say you are working with an editor and she comes back to you and says, “This translation really isn’t very good. I think it should be retranslated before I edit it.” What do you do? Your first reaction may be that your editor is trying to upsell you on something that you don’t really need. However, translators who abide by a code of ethics will always try to do right by you and will not sell you something that isn’t necessary. So, what signs should you look for to determine whether your text should be retranslated or whether a thorough editing will suffice? Work with your editor to determine the following:
Does it contain minor translation errors or spelling mistakes?
The world’s best authors require the services of an editor to ensure that their texts are flawless. The world’s best translators are no different. Though a text should not contain errors that would be picked up by a regular spellcheck, it is not uncommon for a translation to contain minor spelling, grammar, or translation errors. A thorough edit should be able to find and correct these errors.
Are terms generally inconsistent within a single file or across multiple files?
Complicated or long files may result in a certain amount of term inconsistency. This is something that an editor should be able to take care of. If there is a significant amount of inconsistency, or especially if inconsistency becomes a recurring issue over multiple projects, you and your editor should work with the translator to create a glossary that can be used in your CAT tool of choice.
Was it clearly translated by a non-native speaker?
You might not be able to read the target text, but your editor will be able to tell you almost instantly if the translator was not a native speaker of the target language. Why should this worry you? Professional translators do not translate into non-native languages. Native speakers, by virtue of their innate abilities in their native language, can render a text better than a non-native speaker. Period. When it comes to quality, this is important. Texts that have been translated by non-native speakers should most often be retranslated by a qualified native speaker.
Was it clearly translated by someone without the requisite industry knowledge?
Industry knowledge is a translator’s bread and butter. It is difficult to fake knowledge of complicated documents like contracts, financial statements, or patents. Many translators with enough time and the right resources can do a bang up job translating something in a field outside of their areas of expertise, but how will the fact that they aren’t experts make you feel when someone questions the translation? Work closely with your editor to determine what should be done in cases where a document was clearly translated by someone in over his head: the editor may be able to fix the mistakes in the file as they arise, but if the mistakes are too numerous, retranslation will be the fail-proof way to ensure quality.
Mistakes happen, but vendors that deliver content that needs to be retranslated should raise a red flag. Always ensure that you are selecting a qualified, native speaker to handle your translations and that a similarly qualified, native-speaking editor is reviewing his or her work. Don’t want or don’t have time to hire two vendors? Many translators and editors already work in pairs. Discuss your needs with your vendor prior to signing on the dotted line to ensure that all parties come away from the transaction satisfied.
Have you ever had a retranslation nightmare, either as a buyer or a vendor? Leave a comment or tweet me at @Bentranslates.