What is translation and why should you care?

February 17, 2019

 

There are many definitions of translation, but the one that comes to my mind is: taking the ideas of one language and transforming them into ideas in another language while keeping faithful to the original. I say ideas instead of words or sentences because translation is not an exact science. It is not about fitting two jigsaw puzzle pieces together or plugging numbers into a formula to get the desired answer. In fact, no translator translates the same text exactly the same. Some translations may be better than others, but they should all convey the meaning of the source. Octavo Paz once said that everything is a translation. I can see his point because if you look the history of the English language, all words come from somewhere else. How many words do we use daily that come from foreign languages or Old English? How many concepts and ideas have been pronounced centuries ago that we are rehashing on a daily basis?

 

Fine, you say. Translation has been defined. So what? What am I supposed to do with that? Well, a properly rendered translation versus a poor one can mean the difference between closing a business deal and losing one. So it is almost never a good idea to hire the cheapest translator available, or, perish the thought, translate your document for free using Google Translate. Remember that language—the language of sales, law, construction and medicine—is your bread and butter. Would you like that to be elegantly phrased in another language or poorly phrased with spelling mistakes and ridiculous punctuation? If you're striving for the first option, I recommend you seek a skilled translator who is knowledgeable on the subject matter, translates into his/her native language and carries out strict quality assurance on the final product to ensure that you receive only the best. On top of that, at least for the first job, it is a good idea to have the translation checked by an independent third party who is ideally a translator in the same language pair. Time to get started!

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