Translation quality – aah, the eternal question! The quality of a translation is, more or less, a matter of opinion. It is true that the best way to evaluate the quality of a translation is to read the finished text. However, there are certain things that can help you determine something about the quality of a translation agency even before you place an order. What does a language expert consider to be a good translation?
When looking for a suitable translation agency, it is a good idea to pay attention to whether the company has an audited quality system. The fact that the translation agency’s quality system has one or even more certifications suggests at least that the elements of quality have been taken into account and these are documented and monitored. In the best translation agencies, quality is constantly developed.
If a deviation is detected in any element of quality, it is corrected and thought is given to how the occurrence of similar deviations in the future can be prevented. Learning from mistakes improves quality!
Purpose of the translation
A key factor regarding the quality of a translation is how it works for its intended purpose. Translation is not about literally translating word for word; rather, professional translators succeed in conveying the desired message naturally in the target language. To do this, however, the translator must be aware of the purpose of the translation.
Sometimes, a translation is required simply to communicate what the text actually says. At other times, the purpose of the translation is to evoke emotions, persuade you or leave a deep impression. If the contact person at your translation agency asks you about the purpose of the translation, you know they are also paying attention to the context of the translation.
So what is a good translation?
It is impossible to give one correct answer to this, because what constitutes a good translation depends a great deal on the case in question. With some texts, the most important issue is accuracy, whereas with other cases it is fluency.
“For our clients, sticking to the timetable is sometimes even the most important quality criterion. For example, a fantastic translation of a speech that is completed only half an hour after that speech should have been given in the language in question is for all practical purposes a bad translation, whereas an average translation of the same speech and delivered on time would be regarded as a better translation,” says Delingua’s Head Translator Anja Lintukorpi.
Translators do a lot of different background work to ensure the quality of a translation. For example, the guidelines and recommendations of Kotus (the Institute for the Languages of Finland) serve as support for linguistic quality. The desired style can be traced, for example, from the customer’s other materials and websites. They are also good sources of terms, as well as other industry publications, glossaries and the internet in general.
“If there are several term options, it’s worth checking with the customer what they want to use. As background work, I also take into account if there is anything unclear or even possible errors in the content of the text to be translated, and the customer will be asked about this as well,” says Anja.
How can the customer help?
In many ways, of course! Delingua’s translators don’t have a crystal ball. They are extremely professional in gathering information and are familiar with the terminology of the areas they specialise in, but information is not always available from public sources. For this reason, we ask you to provide all possible reference material to support the work of our translators.
Every company has its own terminology, and at least someone has an idea of the desired style for the translation – and we would like to know these. With the help of this information, projects can be completed more smoothly.
“The customer should provide the translation agency with any reference materials and any other tips that relate to the assignment. And they should also say if, in their opinion, any of the material they have published is not good and should therefore not be used as a source. It is also important that the customer reacts to questions in good time – or that someone is available to answer questions at all,” says Anja.
You certainly know the purpose of the translation you need and other expectations regarding the service. Explain these to the translation agency, although a really good translation agency will already ask about them! This ensures that the cooperation is uncomplicated and the translation you receive meets your expectations.