The Translation Process: Translation of Content
As a specialist translation company, we are often confronted by the common misconception that translation projects require no more than a straightforward mechanical process involving the simple substitution by atranslator, working from a printed text and with the assistance of a dictionary, of the words in a text in one language for the corresponding words in another language.
This situation, however, bears very little relation to the translation process as carried out by modern, commercial translation companies. Word-for-wordtranslations do not take into account context, grammar, conventions, and idioms. Indeed, if this were the case, machine translation would by now have replaced translation companies such as ours. Furthermore, our translatorsvery rarely, if ever, work from printed source material, working instead with source documents generated in a wide range of computer file formats.
In order to obtain optimum results from your translation projects, it is useful to understand that translation is not an exact science and that there is not a one-to-one correlation between the words and phrases of different languages. Translation, rather, involves the interpretation of a source text and the subsequent production of an equivalent target text capable of transmitting the original message in another language. This work is carried out by human translators, who must take into account a series of factors that include context, grammar rules, writing conventions and idioms. This work, naturally, requires a minimum amount of time, even when dealing with projects classified as “urgent”.
Another common misconception is that anyone who can speak a second language will automatically make a good translator. Within the professionaltranslation sector, it is generally accepted that the best translators are those who translate into their native language, as it is unusual for someone to reach a level of total fluency in a second language. A good translatorunderstands the source language well, has experience in the subject matter and is capable of producing well-written texts in the target language. Moreover, the translator should not only have advanced linguistic skills, but also considerable cultural experience in order to understand geographically-specific information: think of the significant cultural differences that exist between Mexico and Spain, for example, two countries which nevertheless share a common language.
In most translation projects, professional translators aim to obtain a final result that combines the concepts of fidelity and transparency, with fidelity representing the degree to which the translation accurately reflects the meaning of the source text, and transparency representing the extent to which a translation appears to have originally been written in the source language. Depending on the nature of the translation project in question, the translation team may opt to emphasise one of these characteristics.
Parallel to the wide-scale introduction of computers, the Internet and the use of electronic file-formats, the efficiency of the translation process has been greatly improved through the use of Computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools. This term, which under no circumstances is to be confused with machine (automatic) translation, refers to a range of specialized programs, including translation memories, terminology databases, concordance applications and alignment programs, which, in simple terms, allowtranslators to reference and to re-use previously translated material. Whilst these tools are capable of working with an increasing number of file formats, they do have limitations and hence our insistence on obtaining source material in text formats.