Translation Quality Standards

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Translation Quality Standards: what to expect

It’s been a few months since I’ve written or published anything, so I decided to have a go at an opinion piece again. I’ve had this topic on my mind for a while now: Quality of translation. So I’ve decided to write a blog on the topic that will hopefully generate some interest and healthy debate.
Let’s start with a simple question; why do you translate? The obvious answer is, of course, you want your readers around the world to understand what you’re saying without having to take a course on your native tongue. However, that’s not the main reason you take it upon yourself to translate your work. It’s plainly because you don’t have a staff or an agency on retainer that can author original content in ten different languages, covering various in depth knowledge in various subjects and send it out to be published.
However, if the project needs to be done nonetheless. And you know it’s a monumental task, but it can be accomplished through Lionbridge. LionbridgeTranscreation is an incredible service that will transcreate/translate your content from scratch such into any language as Spanish, French Canadian, Italian, Arabic, etc.
Translation Quality
There are countless examples of great books throughout history that are translated badly. The most famous one that comes to mind is the Bible, which I personally read in three languages,  there variations in each language and in some case in some parts It is practically a different book in another language. Translation, whether it is for history books or magazine articles, is never error free. It doesn’t matter if your translation service is promising you the world; they’re not going to deliver, I can guarantee you they will not be error free. This is because no service in the world guarantees 100% uptime, not even your Internet Service Provider, or even your medical practitioner, in both 2 examples there is uptime and malpractice ratios. Wireless service providers generally guarantee uptime 99%, in another word, let me make it easy for you, this means the network is not available for 87.5 hours per year. So when your Translation service provider tells you 100% error free service, something is not adding up.
Realistic expectations
Throughout this article, keep in mind that quality is entirely subjective, especially when it comes to literature. I’m going to try to outline the errors that you can expect from a translator or from the process of translation. However, as a general rule, you should have realistic expectations.
I’m not sure how many of my readers will be familiar with the J2450 standard, and I won’t stress over the exact details, but this is what you need to know:
Should you dump your Supplier over Quality?
There are many reasons business relationships grow apart. However, over the years, I’ve invested a lot of work into building the translation industry in Canada and around the world and I’ve heard a lot of stories as to why prospects wants to move on from existing vendors, some are good/bad and the ugly. So, I’m going to inject this blog with personal anecdotes. My favorite story is one where the prospect told me complaining about his existing vendor re the quality of translation: “My cousin who speaks Spanish reviewed a translation and deemed it to be poor”. I can’t say what his qualifications were to judge the content, but the rule in business is that the client is always right (NOT ACTUALLY, but that’s a conversation for another time).
The point of this story is that a consumer of translated content will treat the translation as any other product or service that they avail. If they perceive it to be poor, they will take their business elsewhere. However, translation services are no simple commodity and should not be treated as such.
Here are my recommendation for clients that are interested in availing translation services
a.       Work with your vendor
b.       Familiarize them with your business (Don’t worry, your NDA contract covers you). They need to understand your business so they can articulately express your message.
c.       Allow for a learning period. In order for a translation service to understand your business, they should know the ins and outs. In the case of a large enterprise, they should also interact with your internal customers, divisions, departments etc..
d.       Adjust the process frequently if the improvements are needed.
e.   If all fails, obviously you need to divorce your vendor.
In the end, obviously the choice is yours. I’ve just laid out the years of experience that I have in the field so you can make an informed decision. If you do decide to change vendors, please talk to me first; I can help you.
I hope you found this helpful, until next time, keep the conversation going.
Robin Ayoub
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