Decorative words cannot express fact, translation quality only can show the truth

What is a “quality” translation?

It is a well-known fact that all translation companies promise quality translations. Most clients understand that at the most basic level, a translation must be accurate—it has to be word-by-word communication of the source text.

But is an accurate translation necessarily a high quality one? And higher quality frequently comes at a price–when is it worth it to pay more?

Three paradigms of translation quality

In one sense, quality refers to whether the translation is acceptable. In another words, a translation of acceptable quality is:

  • accurate (reflects the content properly)
  • effective (has the wished-for effect on the person who reads)
  • appropriate (meets project constraints)

Apparently, there are different quality levels of the translation that shall be taken into consideration. A document that is needed as evidence in a court hearing or that which meant to represent a company to its clients requires a flawless, well- polished translation–also known as “publication quality.” Other translations may only be needed to understand the general meaning of the content for internal use–sometimes known as “informational quality.”

Translation process in general

To understand the translation quality, it’s important to have a general idea about the translation process within a translation agency before it gives the client final product.

For most translators and translation agencies have a process that looks more or less like this:

  1. Project acceptance: Receive the document and ask client questions to understand his needs and expectation for the project.
  2. Reading: Read the source document to get in-depth understanding of its content, context, purpose, and intended audience.
  3. Research: Some areas (even within the same field) may be vague or unfamiliar – we shall clarify these sections by making research and interacting with the client or document author.
  4. Drafting: Write a draft translation.
  5. Revision: Accomplish further research and clarification to tighten up the translation content and ensure it matches the content of the original in 100%.
  6. Individual Editing: Examine the translation from the perspective of the reader, who usually does not compare the translation to the source, and make modifications to ensure the translation will stand on its own—it makes sense, converses the message appropriately, and is fluent.
  7. Editing -Proofreading: Read through the translation to make sure there are no typographical blunders in the text.
  8. Third-party review: Double check the translation for any accidental omissions or overlooked mistakes.

Each step requires professional approach, knowledge, time and decision-making to reach the expected result, because a failure to completed even one of the steps can compromise the final product.

Is it worth it to pay more for a higher quality translation?

So, the question is “Should one invest more into the translations of best quality?” Like any other important decisions in everyday life, before choosing a translations company and agree to the price provided, consider the purpose of the translation. Legal translations, for example, such as court judgments, appeals, powers of attorneys, affidavits, corporate documents, etc. require more translator’s time, knowledge of the field and talents. These documents are usually meant for official purposes and are more expensive. An informal translation, on the other hand, such translation of a letter from a foreign friend meant just for you, takes less time to be translated; thus, it is cheaper.  However, even a simple letter of email cannot be delegated to a non-expert with little oversight if a translation agency set a high value on its reputation.


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