The mysterious world of translation

The world of translation may seem rather mysterious, or even daunting, to the uninitiated.

This is hardly surprising given the huge range of possibilities available on the market, particularly via the Internet, with promises of “free online translations”, “machine translations” and the like.

Whilst services such as Google Translate may provide a handy way of obtaining the general gist of a document, they are seldom adequate when it comes to obtaining an accurate translation for professional purposes. Because translation is about much more than simply replacing one word for another in the corresponding language, machine translation solutions are simply not advanced enough to pick up on the various complexities that languages can offer or to identify the correct tone, emphasis, and cultural understanding required in order to produce a satisfactory translation.

So this is where the professional translator comes in. But how does someone who requires a translation but has little knowledge of the industry know where to start? They may begin by searching online for translators in their local area or ones who specialise in their particular field of business. Most translators’ Websites will be dotted with terms such as ‘source language’, ‘target language’, ‘rate per word’, ‘language combinations’ ‘CAT tools’, etc. which may in themselves seem like a foreign language to anyone not familiar with this specialism.

To dispel some of the mystery surrounding the world of translation, here are a few of the basics:

The source language is simply the language in which the original document was written, whilst the target language is the language in which the final translation is to be produced.

Rate per word is fairly self-explanatory. This is generally the way in which translators charge for their work. They simply apply a set rate for each word to be translated and multiply that by the total number of words in the document.

Language combinations are the different language pairs or ‘working languages’ offered by the translator (e.g. from French to English or from Chinese to German).

CAT tools are Computer-Assisted Translation tools which a translator may use in certain large-volume projects involving large amounts of repetition, etc.

When choosing a translator for a specific project, things to look out for are their fields of specialism, relevant qualifications and number of years of experience. Becoming a good translator is a long and arduous business, involving many years of hard work and continuous efforts to remain up-to-date with the current affairs and culture of the source language countries. Unfortunately, there are many unqualified, inexperienced translators on the market who tend to undercut the prices and undervalue the services of the professionals. It is always nice to work with someone with a good, flexible attitude, so the presentation and general feel of a translator’s Website can be a good starting point.

So translation is not really as mysterious as it may at first seem; the important thing is to find the right person with the appropriate qualifications and knowledge and a healthy approach to their craft.

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