What is translation quality, and how could it be measured?
Translated document quality (nice formatting, etc.) does not have anything to do with the translation quality. The document can be very nicely formatted, etc., but it is the translation contents that count. People invented various quality measurement systems for translation from time to time, but none of them are very good. First, look at the target-to-source word count ratio. If it is greater than 1.6 for most European languages, there are grounds to be worried. At the same time, a translation is good only if a man who is knowledgeable in the field (engineer, scientist, or physician) can understand everything right. In that case, they say that the translation is authentic. At the same time, a translation is good only if the man who is knowledgeable in the field (engineer, scientist, or physician) can understand everything correctly and perfectly on the first reading. The language does not draw attention to itself, and does not need to be sorted out by the reader. It is as if the author, who wrote the original text in the source language, had written the text directly into the target language.
What does accurate mean as applied to translation?
When we say accurate translation, we mean that the spirit of the document (i.e. its contents), or the author's intent and purposes, as well as all technical terms, have been reproduced in the target language without distortions, omissions, or additions, with the maximum possible accuracy. That is, the technical terms are translated accurately and precisely.
How important are precise and accurate terms?
Every field of knowledge, activity, industry, etc. has its own terminology. For instance, the word "head" means pressure in hydraulics; it is used in politics and business, meaning a leader or a top government executive; it is used in mechanical engineering when they speak about the part of a bolt or screw. When you open a dictionary, you will see a number of other examples, all of them for "head". It is important to translate a word using the accurate term in the specific field with which the translated document is dealing.
Another example: the English word "track" was incorrectly translated into French as "chaines de roulement" (literally: chains of rotation, which does not make sense) instead of the correct French word "chenille" (the tracks of a tank or caterpillar tractor) or "chemin de roulement". [See my contribution in the ATA Chronicle, v.XXXIII, No. 9, 2004, p. 57]. Example.
A real life example: A boy in Slovakia asked for a football. They brought him a football from the United States... Surprise, surprise! The boy meant a soccer ball! It was not a tragedy, and everybody laughed, but what if it was a critical spare part or a medicine?
One final example is: 100% inspection does not mean the same as piece-by-piece inspection, because, although apparently similar, the terms have totally different meanings. [See my contribution in the ATA Chronicle, v.XXXIII, No. 9, 2004, p. 57]. Example.
What are the other elements of translation accuracy?
Correct use of ordinary words in different fields is also important for a good translation. For example: the same Russian word is used for sewing and suturing. Once I came across translation stating "The surgeon then sews the wound." I don't think anyone, not even a layman, would like this translation.
Another example: one says "cooking" which may mean the "preparation" of culture medium in microbiology, or "cooking" may mean "cooking" in recipe books, meaning "cooking meals." The correct term for illegal or criminal activities with accounting books is "cooking the books," and a good translation from English does not have anything to do with the "kitchen-based activities."
How can a freelancer be sure of the translation quality?
As a freelancer, I always know first-hand from the customer what he/she wants, I actually do the job, and I know that I have exhausted all resources in looking for the right term. Quality assurance and quality control are exercised at the same time, during translation. But that isn't it. I print out every completed translation, large and small, and I edit and proof-read it before sending it out.
What are the important guidelines in relations with the customers?
Here are simple general rules in my relations with my customers:
- There are no unimportant customers.
- Loyalty and confidentiality are cornerstones when you deal with documents, especially with proprietary information, legal documents, financial data, etc.
- I would never accept a job that I cannot handle. If the customer asks that I outsource their job (large volume, or in a language I do not work with, etc.), I will do whatever it takes to edit and to check the translation for correctness, and to remove all uncertainties with the translator. As a result, the quality of the final translation will look like my own work.
- I believe that it is my responsibility to notify the customer of any inaccuracies, typos, inconsistencies, etc. that might occur in the source document. I can do it by inserting a note or by explicitly telling, or writing to the customer.
- I always give the customer a discount if the job has fragments that are identical, which can be cut-and-pasted (sometimes with minor changes).
- I will never do the same translation again for the customer (sometimes they loose traces of their files, and I try to keep documents on my computer if customers do not positively ask me to destroy them). On numerous occasions my customers thanked me for that.
- I always destroy all confidential hardcopy data received from customers by shredding.
Is there competition between a freelancer and translation agencies?
An emphatic "NO", because we complement each other. I am endorsed by and have the pleasure of working for many good translation agencies and treat them like my loyal customers. I have certain advantages over translation agencies (see the question What are the basics of translation agencies ), and they have their strong points. We are not competing because the turnover of any translation agency is many times higher than a one-man operation. We are just doing different things. I custom tailor each and every job; they are running their business like big factories. We are all trying to satisfy our customers. This means that I can do some jobs better, and they have their own methods of endeavor.
What does it take to work with terminology?
- I consult all the dictionaries and additional resources I have, and I confer and mediate with knowledgeable professionals.
- I go on the Internet (search engines, databases, online dictionaries and reference websites) and I look for ads, reports, papers, etc., that may contain the term I am looking for.
- As a last resort, I ask my clients for help. They describe the meaning of the term, so that I can refine my search or provide a "descriptive translation".
- I always try to help others when they ask me about terms.
Attitude toward small jobs and fast turnaround jobs?
I like small jobs. I always try to do them as first priority. I almost always accept fast turnaround jobs. It is a great challenge, and I like the dynamics of it.
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