Using translated products

Translation Matters - Using Translated Products




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If your company translates corporate material into other languages, including your native tongue, you may have experienced something like one of the following scenarios:


Scenario #1: The translation is good and you can easily understand the important information your company wanted to convey to you. Your Corporate Communications Department is 'on-the-ball', that is to say, they know what they are doing. They probably hired out the effort to a company specializing in translating important material. They, in turn, know what they are doing when it comes to selecting highly skilled language translators. And they know the importance of editing.


 Scenario #2: The translation is okay, but after you've read it, you have an uncertain feeling as to whether or not you got the full scope of what the original document communicated (in the original language). It's like when you eat a meal and there isn't quite enough to fill you. You get sort of a half-full feeling. Or we could liken it to the feeling you get when you have just swallowed a bad part of an apricot.


 Scenario #3: The translation is just awful. It ranges in quality from the unintelligible to being something a 6th grader might be capable of performing. You might ask how this happens. It usually happens when an inexperienced Corporate Communications Leader decides to cut out the "unnecessary" costs of hiring either a Professional Translator directly or more appropriately hiring a Multi-Lingual Translation Company to oversee the entire process, including quality checking.


What they have done in this case, is simply use one of their employees to perform the translation. While the employee may know their mother tongue fairly well, they may still be struggling with the new tongue. They might understand spoken English, for example, but still struggle with written English. Further complicating matters are all the technical issues involved in rendering a good translation that the non-translator is probably not aware of and you can see how a poor translation could result. The bottom line is that being bilingual does not a translator make. If the native speaker of the foreign language was not trained and has no experience in translation, he will not produce good translations.


The potential silver lining resulting from the last scenario, is that it usually only takes a little feedback from the folks in the target language group to divorce the Communications Leader from ever trying that in the future. The problem is that oft' times that feedback never comes and is not sought after. In other words, the feedback loop remains unclosed.


You could hire a Professional Translator to "Back Translate" a paragraph of the document into the Source Language and provide it to the Communications Leader to show just how awful is the work of the non-professional. That might be one way to close the loop and ensure a more rigorous process going forward.


Surely Corporate Leadership would do something about ensuring quality translation for the welfare of the company and its stakeholders. It seems unconscionable to do otherwise.


 Copyright 2007 Thomas Mayhew