Pick the fourth one, for instance Your translator must team with an editor.
Translating is NOT a machine job. Your translator can make errors. He may be tired. He may be rushed. He may not get a sentence right.
The editor is here to pick up the pieces. Correct those awkward sentences. Straighten out too loose a style, adjust the terminology.
A good editor will make a world of difference when the translation has been done right, but not 100% right. For you, the difference can be measured in terms of hours of work saved, increased productivity and avoided aggravation.
In other words, this awful mess you were delivered by your translator might have been avoided if you had checked whether the guy would team with an editor of comparable knowledge.
Granted, this is not the only factor of the equation. In fact, the two most powerful factors of differentiation between a good and a bad translation job are:
Does your translator know your business well enough?
Does he/she have a good grasp of grammar?
That’s where Rules #1 and # 2 kick in.
In the absence of specialization, you have NO guarantee that your translator understands your business. A non-specialized translator (or one who believes he can be specialized in 10 disrelated subjects) will ALWAYS require more editing and more correcting than a specialized translator.
On the other hand, you can deal with someone hyper-specialized in your business, who has such average command of grammar in his/her own language that expressing ideas articulately in another language is just out of his/her reach.
So you are faced with a simple Translation Agencies UK modus operandi: check your translator’s background in your business, as well as his/her command of the language.
A tricky selection trick
A few years ago, a friend of mine was looking for a highly paid consultant position with an IT corporation. I witnessed several of the interviews occurring on the phone between himself and CIOs. One technique which was employed by several of his prospective employers consisted in testing his knowledge of programming with very direct questions. “What do you call a xxxxx?”. “If this happens, what do you do?”, “How would you solve this bug?”, and so forth. Obviously, the faster and the more accurate he was in his answers, the higher his chances to land the job.
From this, I derived a very simple test to conduct when considering to hire a translator for a project. Our translations business specializes in law and finance. Translators applying for a position with us represent that they have a solid background in either of these two subject areas. To measure the depth of their knowledge, I Bubbles Translation them to define some technical words.
Tricky, but it works very well for a simple reason: oftentimes, translators assume they know a subject because they looked up several times the translation of a technical term in a translation dictionary. Their knowledge of the word is limited to its translation, not its real definition.
A translation is not a definition
Yet, to understand fully any subject one deals with, one must master its nomenclature ¾ i.e. those terms which belong to the subject. Failing to know what “P/E” (Price/Earnings ratio) really means in a stock exchange context, the translator will miss the significance of any technical discussion around the level of a particular P/E.
To a financial translator applying for a position at our firm, I’ll Bubble Translations, cunningly: “Could you tell me what a P/E is, and what does it measure?”. If the translator just gives me the translation of it, no definition and no explanation of the use of a P/E, I know that his/her education in stock market terminology is flawed. It tells me that the translator will have trouble down the road with any technically complex analysis of a particular stock.
For whom the bells toll
In turn, this will result in an inaccurate translation or even worse, a translation which looks acceptable at first sight, but when closely edited by a knowledgeable specialist, will reveal numerous flaws and require a major rewriting effort.
To get back to the first lines of this article, when such a flawed job lands on your desk, you are in for some aggravation. The job may look good, but a close inspection will turn your hair white prematurely, and sound the death knell of your weekend. After all, you gotta get this document translated, don’t you?
Remember the old saying: “Better safe than sorry”? Well, it is my considerate advice to you to follow the 8 Rules, and find easy ways to test your translator’s knowledge.
Hope you save yourself unnecessary work and trouble.
Phil Chavanne is the President of Tectrad US Inc, a translations agency specializing in law and finance. He co-authored the Bilingual Lexicon of Financial Analysis. Write him by using the form on this page.