Why Translation Quality Counts

Imagine that you are traveling abroad, say Sweden, and are interested in volunteering at a community service event. The event flyer is written in Swedish, which you understand a little, but not very well. The event organizer also has some English translations of the flyer.  The translated flyer is much shorter than the original one. Would you read the original flyer, or would you read the English version? I would choose the English translation, even though the translated flyer clearly doesn’t have all the information provided as does the original.  So, considering translation is important, but why should we care about quality translation?

People are drawn to recognizable things.

If a native English speaker hears both English and another language, they are more likely to have their attention drawn toward whatever is being said in English.

An example of this can be found in airport announcements. Do you (or CAN you) listen to all the announcements said in each language? It might be fun to test your rusty ear for Spanish or French. For the most part, however, we tend to only listen to that which is spoken in our native language.

In addition to flyers and announcements, quality technical translation can be crucial. Poor translation leads to confusion, misunderstanding, frustration, and can end up being dangerous! When thinking of translation quality, a big question to ask is: does the translated version of your content convey the same message as the original version?

Quality translation means that words are chosen carefully.

Here are a few ways to consider when planning for quality translation:

  1. Translations must match the industry standard and stay consistent with other documents within an organization.
  2. Tone and purpose of your content must also be considered: who will be reading this? Is there a certain level of politeness or linguistic complexity your client is expecting? A school and community newsletter will look much different compared to an industrial equipment manual.
  3. While keeping the tone and purpose of your content in mind, one must also consider keeping the appearance of content consistent. This includes using a consistent, reader-friendly font (no comic sans), and keeping your content short and to the point. Content that’s about a page long is ideal because it allows people to quickly read and understand the writer’s intent.

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