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What is the single most important factor in producing a high quality translation?
Thread poster: Astrid Elke Witte

Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 02:37
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Oct 12, 2007

Do you think that there is one outstanding most important factor in ensuring that a translation is of high quality? If so, please explain.

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Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 03:37
Turkish to English
+ ...
Understanding the client's need Oct 12, 2007

I think it is about understanding the reason why the client wants to have the text translated, and setting out to meet this need. For example, if you are translating a book that is going to be published and marketed, the most important thing is good writing. If it doesn't read well it won't sell. On the other hand, if you are translating a financial document that will be presented as evidence in a fraud case, then total accuracy to the extent of reproducing errors in the source text assumes paramount importance. If the translation fails to accurately convey some seemingly insignificant piece of information a massive lawsuit may fail.

[Edited at 2007-10-12 06:21]


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Catherine Brix
Local time: 02:37
Swedish to English
+ ...
A well rested brain Oct 12, 2007

in a healthy body.

I find translation to be mentally draining. And I guess the intellectual challenge of the job is a big part of its charm. However, when I've been working 7 days a week, 10-12 hours a day for an extended period, my work is affected. Besides being cranky and short-tempered, quality pretty much goes out the window if I have a cold or just an insignificant infection on top of being mentally drained. A short press release - say 400 words - that I can usually fix in 30 minutes suddenly takes hours.

If I get a weekend off, the chance to meet friends, go to museums or art galleries, spend time in the outdoors and get a full 8-hours of sleep 3 nights in a row, I not only feel like a new person but do some of my best work.

Just my opinion.

[Edited at 2007-10-12 07:20]


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kolya

Danish to English
+ ...
what is the single most... Oct 12, 2007

I believe integrity, full knowledge of the translated language,
Culturally correct terms, and attention to detail, also the meaning of the sentence, and the way it is being put together, be it a slang term, a regular term or an specialized term...


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Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:37
Dutch to English
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Time Oct 12, 2007

You need time to do it right. The required time to actually translate and then a period before doing your final checks.

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Emmanuelle Moulin  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 02:37
English to French
+ ...
Flowing style Oct 12, 2007

A high quality translation is one that doesn't look or feel like it is a translation, a style so natural and flowing that you would think it has originally been written in the target language.

Obviously accurate, well-researched, and necessarily requiring time and rest. And if I can get a nice break between the moment I finish the translation and the moment I start editing/proofreading it, I have enough distance and fresh grey matter to ensure higher quality.

E.


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Kathryn Strachecky  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:37
French to English
A thorough knowledge of the subject matter and vocabulary Oct 12, 2007

I would say a thorough knowledge of the subject matter and vocabulary is essential to a great translation.

I do a lot of marketing texts, which on the surface often seem easy. However, there is a lot of jargon out there and being able to use it with ease is essential to doing a good translation. Often in our job there are many possible "accurate" translations for one particular term, but only one that is really used in a given situation.

That's why we aren't just language professionals, we are also specialised experts.


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xxxLatin_Hellas
United States
Local time: 02:37
Italian to English
+ ...
Knowledge of subject and source, good writing in the target Oct 12, 2007

I imagined that you would receive several different responses.

For me, it is knowledge of a specialization, fluent reading ability in the source text, and good writing ability in the target. I also like Tim's answer.

We would all like to have the time to do elegant translations, but most of the time, at least in my experience (experiences do differ), we must deliver a balance between speed, quality and price. Having the above skills and knowledge is essential to delivering that and thus maintaining mutually beneficial relationships.


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Luca Ruella  Identity Verified
United States
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
None Oct 12, 2007

Astrid Elke Johnson wrote:

Do you think that there is one outstanding most important factor in ensuring that a translation is of high quality? If so, please explain.


There is not a single most important factor. To deliver a high quality translation everything is key. If you just leave one of the aspects that the other colleagues have mentioned, then you will simply not have a high quality translation.

Cheers

Luca


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
Teamwork Oct 12, 2007

Astrid Elke Johnson wrote:
Do you think that there is one outstanding most important factor in ensuring that a translation is of high quality? If so, please explain.

You often need a technical expert for the translation and an editor to correct typos and grammar and to improve the style, consistency, and clarity of a text.


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Clare Barnes  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 02:37
Swedish to English
+ ...
Innate ability Oct 12, 2007

This was mentioned in forum a couple of days ago, but if you do not have an innate ability to translate and to do so well, then you will never produce a top quality translation.

Knowledge of foreign languages/specialist skills doth not a translator make... (not on their own anyway).


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xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 22:37
Spanish to English
+ ...
In depth understanding the subject-matter. Oct 12, 2007

All the rest is mere translation and business.

MediaMatrix


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JaneTranslates  Identity Verified
Puerto Rico
Local time: 21:37
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Translators are born AND made. Oct 12, 2007

Clare Barnes wrote:

This was mentioned in forum a couple of days ago, but if you do not have an innate ability to translate and to do so well, then you will never produce a top quality translation.

Knowledge of foreign languages/specialist skills doth not a translator make... (not on their own anyway).


I couldn't agree more. We all know intelligent, articulate, bi- or multi-lingual people who've tried translation, even taking training, but just can't do it well--often because they can't break free from the original syntax.

Like teachers, translators have to be born with the gift. The gift needs to be trained, honed, exercised, and developed, but if you don't have it, you can't get it.

Jane (BARNES de Ramírez)


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:37
Spanish to English
+ ...
Agree Oct 12, 2007

Marijke wrote:

You need time to do it right. The required time to actually translate and then a period before doing your final checks.


The first thing that came to my head (and of course, time is money....)


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Isabel Fernandez  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:37
Member (2008)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Love of the Art Oct 12, 2007

Astrid Elke Johnson wrote:

Do you think that there is one outstanding most important factor in ensuring that a translation is of high quality? If so, please explain.


The main factor to be a good translator is to love your job and be proud of the quality of your translations. In a world with automated translation tools and non-professionals translating as a side job for an extra income, we tend to forget that a good translation is half science and half art. Being a good translator requires native knowledge, many years of training and professionalism at all times.


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