Translation Styles: Trust

Translation Styles Contents

Welcome to the seventh article in our eight-part series on how to get the most out of your translation. This series of articles is intended for readers who need to get their message across clearly, in a foreign language. Specifically, it deals with issues related to Japanese to English and English to Japanese translation.
This table of contents will be updated with links as I publish each new article.

  1. How Important is Translation Quality, Anyway?
  2. Translation Sin 1: Automated Translation
  3. Translation Sin 2: Non-native Translation
  4. Translation Sin 3: Direct Translation
  5. Translation Necessity 1: Consultation
  6. Translation Necessity 2: Communication
  7. Translation Necessity 3: Trust
  8. The Final Product

Recap: Building a Relationship

In the last two articles we discussed the initial consultation and communication flow during your translation. In other words, establishing and strengthening your relationship with your translator. Each exchange with your translator has immediate benefits to the project at hand and, provided that they go well, over time these interactions will lead to a bond of trust between you and your translator.

Stating the Obvious?

Ideally, you want to be able to trust all of your business associates, employees, and contractors. So, why have I dedicated an article to such a self-evident subject?
With other contractors, such as plumbers or architects, it becomes obvious if they’ve made mistakes in their project- the flooded basement or collapsed roof speaks for itself. If an ad agency produces a campaign for you in your own language, you can look at it and see if it makes sense or not, and whether or not it contains the delivery you want. In the worst case scenario, if there’s a generation gap between you and the material, ask your children or nieces and nephews. With translated material, unlike the examples above, you’re much less likely to be able to find even obvious mistakes or to have someone near at hand who can explain the meaning and impact of the product, so trust becomes more important.

Dealing with a Professional Translator

Even though you can’t check their work yourself, and even though their work may appear to be so many words on a page, remember that you have hired a professional in the business. You’ve done your research: you’ve passed over machine translation and non-native translators, you have given your translator leeway to veer away from direct translation, and you’ve hired a specific translator- rather than an agency- so that you have direct contact with the guy or gal doing the work. You’ve also checked out the translator’s reputation, past work, or qualifications to handle your project. You’ve got the right person for the job.

If you had performed all the steps above with an advertising agency or a shipping contractor, you’d be inclined to sit back and trust them to do their jobs, am I right? For some reason, the process seems to differ with translation. Some companies have senior members whose pride rests on their (limited) foreign language ability, which is a lurking poison for any translation project. Unless that senior member is willing to shoulder the whole project, it’s best to let the translator handle it.

Another difference comes from the translator’s responsibility. He or she needs to make your carefully crafted work make sense to a foreign audience. Some of that carefully crafted work will have to be scrambled beyond recognition or eliminated. In my experience, the person who took the time to write out the original text (and I have been that guy) becomes rather attached to it and doesn’t want to see it go. But go it must. (This should also reduce your word count and lower the translation price, which isn’t a bad thing).

Trust . . . with Insurance

If you’re working with a translator for the first time, and you’re nervous about the product, consider hiring a second translator as a consultant. Your consultant doesn’t need to pass all the stringent tests you apply to your primary translator- but they MUST be a native speaker of the target language. If you’re employing them only to read through the original and product and point out areas that they think need change (not do any actual correction or modification), this should be a relatively affordable service. Of course, it helps if the consultant is familiar with the outcome of your consultation/communication stages and your agreements on style.

Many translation jobs begin with a test, so your translator should not be upset at having their work reviewed (as long as they can accept the credentials of the reviewer). If he or she does get upset, you may want to consider another translator. For my money, I would happily submit my work for review by any other native translator. In my case, having it reviewed by a non-native translator for reverse translation is redundant, because I do that before sending the final product out.

Trust Goes Both Ways

Your translator needs to be able to trust you, too. They need to know that you will reply to their queries in a timely manner and that you will uphold your end of the bargain (payment) without quibbling. But that’s just part of being professional. Specific to the translation business, your translator should be able to trust that the source material isn’t going to change significantly mid-project, or that you won’t come back to them with a sudden sweeping change in style (because a new boss is overseeing your section, or something along those lines). This comes with time and building a relationship.

Nearly There!

We’re almost to the end of this series of articles. So far, I’m not sure if anyone besides the spambots have been reading them (I get a lot of spambot comments), but I do hope they’ve provided insight for your next translation project. We will wrap up next time with “The Finished Project,” then go back to more off the cuff articles about the world of translation, living in a multilingual society, and raising a bilingual family.

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