Friday 7 September 2012

There's More to Translation than Translating

Some years ago I did some cold calling work for a translation company. It wasn’t very well paid but it got me through a lean patch of self-employment. Then at the end of the financial year, my 10% commission for the work I had generated arrived. It just went into four figures, and I was delighted.

So I get quite interested when I come across a new translation company website. Today I found out more technical detail about translations needed for official reasons. For example, certain documents are accepted by the UK’s Home Office and Passport Office only if they are certified translations. That means that the document and its translation are accompanied by a certificate of authenticity on a recognised letterhead which carries a membership number for the Association of Translation Companies.

Sometimes overseas officials require more than that. Some translations have to be certified by a Notary Public – a specially appointed lawyer. Others have to be legalised by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Organising all this can be part of what a translation company does today.

This photo of an international business meeting is from
 Wikimedia Commons by Richter Frank-Jurgen.

Another technical aspect of translation is how it can be automated. You’ve probably tried to make sense of a web page that has been automatically translated. I’ve found that it doesn’t quite work and it can be quite tricky to work out what I’m supposed to be reading. These are quality issues that stop translation companies using full automation, but technology now exists to pull up previously translated words and phrases from a memory database.

With this tool that frees translators from repetitive translating, they can pass on the time and money savings to their customers. Must be good news for businesses that need translation services. Of course if it had been available when I was in the business I might have earned less commission.


Paola said...

I trained as a translator/interpreter, Jean, and worked as one for several years. I cannot believe what awful translations manage to get into print - some evidently done by computers, others by humans! Very often they are so garbled that they are incomprehensible. I firmly believe that people - apart from very few exceptions and people who are virtually bilingual - can only translate into their mother tongue/first language - as you say, there's a lot more to translating than you would think - and it's definitely not just about words!

Unknown said...

I do so agree, Paola. The company I worked for made mother tongue translators their unique selling point. They have translators on call in many countries and are very successful.

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