The Quality of Translations

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There are enough examples of failed translations such as incomprehensible operating instructions or General Terms and Conditions that feature spelling and grammatical errors or incorrectly applied terminology. This even happened to Facebook in 2018 with their Community Standards. Sascha Lobo reported about it on Spiegel Online.

The fact of the matter is, quite often, there is simply not very much time for a translation. A text has to be translated into another language within 24 hours, preferably only by a single translator, so that it doesn’t cost too much and you decide on the cheapest translation agency. However, time constraints, excessive cost-saving considerations, and the lack of teamwork often affect quality, and the problem begins with a lack of communication.
That’s why it’s essential first to be aware of what the goal of the translation is. What is the text supposed to do? Should it convey information to the customer, should it persuade him or her to buy a product or help shape the image of a product or a brand? It’s best to write all this down. Then it’s also essential to know how best to address the target group with the text, and this is a task for market research, to analyze in advance how the target group actually communicates, which words are used, what the sentence structure is, and what linguistic peculiarities there are. Because you can only address a target group emotionally if you know how they communicate, all of this then becomes part of the briefing for a translation project. This means that specific terms in the source language are translated into precisely defined terms in the target language, and a glossary is created. In the briefing, you determine whether the target group is addressed formally or informally (using “Sie” or “du”) when translating into German, etc. The briefing for a translation, regardless of whether it’s just a text or a larger project that includes many texts, is crucial. You can also ask advice from linguists, after all, that’s what they’re there for.

There are different ways to translate a text.

  1. A translator works on the text alone (two-eyes principle). The risk: there’s no quality control.
  2. A translator and a proofreader work with the text (4-eyes principle). This corresponds to DIN EN ISO 17100.
  3. The ideal situation is when a translator translates the text into another language and then submits it to a proofreader while a project manager accompanies the entire process and, if necessary, adds the finishing touches to the text in consultation with the two colleagues (6-eyes principle). This also corresponds to DIN EN ISO 17100. It’s crucial that the three participants can communicate quickly and easily using a cloud tool or software to clarify ambiguities and find the best solutions. If there’s still time to give them feedback for their work, optimal quality can be achieved. This is a bit more time-consuming at the beginning, but with continuous collaboration, the process accelerates immensely and leads to the best results.
    Be aware that written documents of all kinds shape your company’s image. That’s why paying close attention when it comes to language is always worth it. After all, this is how you communicate with your target groups and strive to win over potential customers. A consistent communication strategy is part of your corporate identity and has become increasingly complex with the advent of globalization.

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