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Understanding The Main Factors that Makes a Translation "Good"

Robin Ayoub

Understanding The Factors That Makes a Translation “Good”

It can be tricky to define whether a translation is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Perhaps in a way it can be said that a translation may be deemed ‘good’ if it is done within the budget and fulfills its immediate purpose.
Purpose however may even be secondary when you consider the importance of text quality. This prevalent factor will make a high quality piece more favorable to clients and business partners should it be understandable as well as well written.
While dichotomous assertions of how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ a text is not acceptable, there are still some factors that may be used to ascertain the quality of a translated text. In this case we will be considering text that has been translated to English. In addition to these factors which may contribute to the quality of the text, one must also be on the lookout for problems that often arise within translations and result in mediocre content.

 Exhaustive Use of Formal Language

While a word may be synonymous to another, the functionality of the term will depend upon the content contained within the text. When translating for comprehension and readability, one must understand which words will serve the purpose better. It is a simple choice between a word that may enhance the overall flow of perusal rather than one which will have a staccato effect. In some cases a plainer sounding word may actually prevail over the more complex one. You need to make the decision between the choice of ‘cardiac’ arrest or a ‘heart attack’. Since English itself is a by-product of various languages, this issue is usually found among those that it has borrowed from. French and Spanish speaking natives may find that the words they use within the norm would be considered complex within the English language and would cater to a niche audience. Sometimes derisive words may just be the key to translation.

Similar But Not Identical

There are many words within languages which may convey the essential meaning of what the author is trying to say but may fail to be an identical representation of the word itself. When translating, it is important to understand which word is naturally used within a context.

Descriptive Phrases

This is especially applicable to technological terms which may not have identical counterparts in another language. A Hand-held device may not be effectively translated to a ‘device held within the hand’. Not only would this be too tedious to implement but is a rather inaccurate and descriptive account of a singular object.
Similarly compounds are also in danger of being lost in the abyss when we consider terms similar to ‘marketing department’ turned into ‘department of marketing’ or ‘Sales Manager’ evolved into a ‘Manager of Sales’. When translating between languages it is important to understand the natural flow and traditional norms in written and conversational language in order to reach a more effective translation even if it isn’t an absolutely accurate or literal one.

Use of Determiners

Excessive use of determiners may also take away from the natural flow of the language. While one may say that the use of ‘a’, ‘an’ and ‘the’ would be fairly accurate, it may be objected that the use is also redundant. If one should ‘see a decrease in the overall expenses’ they would also witness ‘decrease in overall expenses’ accurately. The ultimate goal would be to reach a result that translates better in idiomatic English. ‘The’ organizations and ‘The’ schools have now shed their connection with the determiner and are quite willing to function independently. This behavior is most common in French to English Translations as the language of origin allows a recurrence of ‘the’ within a sentence.

Contractions and Preposition Use

The narrative style may also find itself victim to the unnecessary avoidance of contractions. Will the content not read better if it features a ‘can’t’ rather than a ‘cannot’? Excessive implementation of rhetorical questions may also give away the ineffectiveness of translation. This occurrence is fairly common among Spanish to English translations.

While you may not be able to identically replicate the content within the original text into the translated one, your goal should be to deliver content according to the needs of the receiving audience in order to promote clarity and readability through the implementation of rhetoric and narrative style. The ultimate motive of the translated piece is to seem as if it were the original itself and that no steps were taken to borrow content from another language.
I hope you found this post helpful and if you like to discuss this further, please comment on this blog or contact me by sending me an email
Until next time….
Robin Ayoub
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