Monthly Archives: July 2015

The mythical world of translation quality (Part 2).

mythbustedIf you were with me last time, I am discussing an interesting Huffington Post article, ’10 myths about translation quality’. Quite why these articles always seem to have ten items in their lists I’m not sure: one or two appeared to be covering much the same ground as some of the others.

That said, the author identifies a number of ‘myths’ that draw attention to some key aspects of the work of translation and interpretation companies such as Global Connects. In particular I liked Myth#8. This stresses the importance of the source material. There is a well-known phrase in our world (which is too rude to mention here but you probably know the one I mean), which sums this up perfectly. If the original work is poorly written, badly argued and/or ambiguous/unclear, then how can any translator make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear?

One of the things which we do at Global Connects that, we believe, makes a huge difference to the quality of our final output, is to ask clients to change/correct/clarify any content/copy that offers a translator too many options and possibilities for error. The most basic purpose of the written word, in any language, is to get an idea from one person’s head into another’s, without either party seeing or speaking to each other and in such a way that the words can have no meaning other than the one the original writer wants to convey. Clarity is crucial. Once that’s established, the preceding myth from the HP article, Myth#7, comes into play…

Specifically, Myth#7 concerns the contention that, “For translation quality, the focus needs to be not [my underlining] on quality control (checking for mistakes) but rather, on quality improvement (producing a better translation from the start)”

This is vital. I’m not demeaning the importance of ensuring there are no mistakes. It’s embarrassing if there is even a minor one, and as we know, major translation errors tend to get you onto one of those entertaining blog pages which highlight this sort of thing. Nevertheless, we’re talking about professional translation here. The business of ensuring that the correct messages, complete with subtle but meaningful nuances, are identified and conveyed is extremely important in business, in legal matters and indeed in any associated social media marketing that is increasingly important in accompanying press releases and business updates. Fail to match your message to the audience (young, old, arty, business-like, professional, technical, etc.) and you fail to produce a genuinely quality piece of translation.

James Miller, Interpreting Manager, Global Connects

The mythical world of translation quality (Part 1).

I came across an interesting article in the Huffington Post recently, entitled ’10 myths about translation quality’. I don’t intend to regurgitate these ad hominen, largely because I rather agree with quite a lot of them, but instead want to consider some of the points made in the context of the work we do here at Global Connects.

bigger-not-betterThe first point made in the Huff Post article is that ‘bigger is not always better’. I could not agree more. Global Connects is actually quite a big translation company, but not massive. One thing (of many!) we are adamant about is quality is at the heart of what a translation company must do if it wishes to retain its clients.

The HP article stresses that, “Generalists are not always better than specialists. If you are seeking translation for just one language or in a specialized industry, you might be better off working with a small agency or a professional freelance translator”. I don’t agree with that. The quality of the work is a reflection of the quality of the translator. Yes, by all means use a professional freelance or small firm specialising in one area, but unless that’s your only area of translation need then what happens when you have another requirement? Say you are an engineering company and you need some complex translation work on Flow Meters, but the next day need to have your HR department’s Diversity Policy translated? Do you have to arrange a small army of freelances who fit each of your specific requirements? Or is it better to have a firm that can actually reach out to (perhaps the same) freelances who have the specific skills in each of these areas? Bearing in mind that it’s usually easier to negotiate a discount for volume of work rather than for ad hoc services, and also that the administration becomes much simpler if you have one point of contact/billing rather than many, surely there are many advantages in dealing with one or two firms you can trust rather than spreading the work around a wide range of different freelance translators? Also, if you are seeking specialists for technical or legal translation, you may have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find the princess. An established, reputable firm will know where to go to get the right person for the work you need done, whereas attempting to source these people yourself can be quite difficult unless you really know what you are doing.

If your requirement really is ad hoc – the once in a blue moon need that, to be fair, many firms do have – then a freelance or small firm may be just what you need. However, if you have a regular requirement, is it not better to develop a relationship with a reasonable size firm who has contacts across the globe for individual languages and specific technical knowledge, rather than take a chance on a one-off success? I’d argue that it is, even though I know I may well be accused of ‘you would say that, wouldn’t you?’ and I’d also argue that the perils of getting it wrong make it far riskier to work with someone you don’t know rather than with someone with whom you have been able to develop a trusting relationship with over a sustained period of time. The onus, believe me, is on the translation company to deliver. We know the value of relationships and where there is trust and honesty it’s far easier to get the required result, on time and at a mutually acceptable price.

To be continued…

James Miller, Interpreting Manager, Global Connects