According to the adage, a rose by any other name is still a rose. Also in translation, the same thing can often be said in multiple ways. Sometimes, there may be situations in which a customer and a translator disagree on the best term to use. How can we decide which term is better? How does a translator manage terms during the translation process?
Translators always walk a fine line in order to get a translation right. There are times when the differences in terminology choices are lines drawn in the sand, and it might be difficult to say which term is the most appropriate for the context. Customers sometimes give feedback that even if a specific term’s translation is correct, there is another equivalent they would rather use in the text in question.
As a starting point, the customer’s suggestion will be used unless it is, for one reason or another, a poor choice or erroneous. If this is the case, the matter is discussed further with the customer and it is explained why the term suggested by the translator would be a more appropriate choice for the context. All agreed terms are stored in a term base to keep the information safe and terminology consistent.
Researching different matters and searching for information are staples in a translator’s work, with the actual translating interwoven with searching for information. Often, terminology issues brew in the unconscious, and solutions to key issues might pop up in the most surprising places.
Translators are familiar with the specific field they translate and look for terms from, among other places, the customer’s website and public databases, but they cannot know about terms that have been decided internally by the customer and are not available publicly. Often, terms also have different translation equivalents. It is the customer’s responsibility to decide which term to use.
Sometimes, the idea is to use the most common terminology, while on other occasions, the customer wishes to differentiate itself from the competition with its very own terminology. The translator should receive specific instructions if the customer wishes to use different translation options according to the context.
There are situations in which the translator may even have to come up with a completely new word. More often the case is that the translator has to use terminology that is not yet established, or a term that is not yet commonly known.
At times, it may be a good idea to include the term in the source language in brackets since, in some fields, people may be more familiar with the foreign language term than its Finnish equivalent. There may also be other reasons for this: for example, when translating instructions on applying for a benefit related to Finnish social security, including the benefit’s Finnish name in an English-language text could be useful for the reader.
Our experience has shown that new customers are very concerned about whether the translator really is familiar with a certain field of business. For us, each translation assignment is special and deserves a translator who is familiar with the subject matter and its special terminology. This is why translation assignments are allocated to translators on the basis of the field of business and text type. In addition, various translation tools, such as translation memory software and term bases, are used in quality assurance.
In organisations of all sizes, it must be ensured that terms are used consistently so that the organisation’s internal and external communications are uniform and professional. A company’s own term base also makes the translator’s work easier. With a well-maintained term base and transparent cooperation, translating content becomes easier and unnecessary misunderstandings are avoided. Read also our 5 + 1 tips for managing companies’ terms.