How To Learn How To Translate Art Into Your Style What Makes a Good Translation?

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What Makes a Good Translation?

Of course, there is no absolute answer as to what makes a “good” or “bad” translation. In a sense, a good translation is one that can be done with the available budget while serving its purpose.

However, there are times when the quality of the text is the predominant factor: a well-written and easily understandable text will save your colleagues time and leave a positive impression on your customers and business partners. Here are some things I suggest you consider when evaluating the quality of a text that has been translated into English. These are the kinds of criteria that a good translator should take into account when translating their text, and they highlight some of the problems that are often found in mediocre translations. Some of these points will, of course, apply more generally to translations between multiple languages:

– Does the translation use too much formal or scientific vocabulary? Words that sound too scientific in English can often be direct translations of words in other languages ​​that are simpler. For example, is the word “anomaly” used when “failure” sounds more natural? Does the translation mention a “lung disease” when “lung disease” would sound more natural to a general audience? These are the classic symptoms of a translation from a language like French or Spanish, where the word “Latin” is a naturally derived and normal-sounding word in these languages, but in English it becomes a scientific term fit only for a highly specialized audience.

– Does the translation use comprehensible words, but not quite ‘le mot juste’? Does the text speak of “social insertion” when “social integration” would sound more natural? Are you talking about “eventual problems” instead of “potential problems”? Or a person’s “administrative status” when “administrative status” would be more common?

– Are adjectives or descriptive phrases used where English would more naturally use a compound? For example, English allows a phrase like “remote access device”, while other languages ​​may have to use a phrase that literally means “remotely accessible device” or “device that allows remote access”.

– Likewise, sentences with “of” or “for” are overused when English would use a compound. Overuse of phrases like “sales strategy from/for” instead of “sales strategy” are classic signs of a multi-language translation.

– Are the determiners (“the”, “a”, “your”…) used as they would be in idiomatic English? Phrases like “saw increased productivity” rather than simply “saw increased productivity” suggest too literal a translation. More subtly, a phrase such as “the terms and conditions”, “the cities and the cities” instead of “the terms and conditions”, “the cities and the cities” suggests a translation of a that normally does not allow two nouns to share the same word for “o” (like French), while repeating the word “o” is unnatural in English.

– Does the translation use a narrative style and rhetoric that sounds natural in English? We’ve all seen signs in French museums telling us, for example, that “the king will die in 1483.” More subtle signs of a translation include overused rhetorical questions (which, for example, appear more common in Spanish than in English, where they can make your text sound too childish). In an English translation, decisions must also be made about, for example, the use of contractions (“no”, “can’t” vs “no”, “cannot”) or the stranding preposition (“Who… a ?” vs “Who(m)…?”) that might not have been problems in the source language. Does the style adopted convey the impression you want to give to your audience?

Ultimately, the translated text should sound like the original, written to convey your message with the style and readability you intended.

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