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The fundamentals of good translation

By Katie Reed | February 21, 2023 | Blog Translation Tips

Translation is an integral part of many business activities, including targeting your advertising correctly, achieving quality results from a market research survey and talking to employees across the world. Good translation is not simply copying from one language directly into another. It takes skill, experience and an understanding of the part that words play in conveying meaning and understanding.

With this in mind, The Language Factory is sharing some of what we have learnt in our 30+ years: the fundamentals of good translation.

  1. Understanding of language

As obvious as it may seem, one of the top fundamentals of good translation is a strong understanding of language. The translator should be both fluent in the source language (the language they’re translating from) and a mother-tongue speaker of the target language (the language they’re translating into). Fluency in both source and target language are key to achieving accuracy and quality in your translations. A native speaker will convey the overt meaning and subtle nuances of your text, generating an accurate, high-quality translation that is fit for purpose.

  1. Qualification in translation

Just as a GCSE in Maths doesn’t qualify you to act as an accountant, knowledge of another language isn’t enough to translate documents on any subject. A degree or post-graduate qualification in translation is a solid indicator that your linguist knows what they’re doing. As we’ve already said, translation isn’t just converting words from one language to another but it is an easy trap to fall into, confusing fluency in two languages with understanding of the process. A qualified and experienced translator will understand the importance of research, the dangers of false friends (words that look the same but mean something different in another language), how to adapt for colloquialisms and plays on words, and many other challenges. Their training in the theory of translation combined with experience is key to well-researched, accurate translations that will resonate with your target audience.

  1. Specialist experience

In addition to linguistic expertise, subject area experience is essential. A solid understanding of the text including any relevant terminology is key to providing an accurate and contextually-appropriate translation. For example, when translating pharmaceutical research, understanding the text and what terminology is typically used by members of that industry can make a huge difference in connecting with your audience. A term used by and for medical professionals, for example, may be different to one used by and for patients, they may use English terms rather than a local equivalent and may even require paraphrasing where the term is new.

  1. Focus on quality

Whilst cost and timings always play a part in the translation process, it is rare for quality not to be the top priority. Getting an accurate translation first time round is what counts and will save time and stress in the long run.

A comprehensive quality process will positively influence your translation at every stage of the project, from initial brief through to completed translation. The process runs even more smoothly when overseen by an experienced Project Manager. They will be involved in all aspects of the project, from choosing the appropriate translator to dealing with any queries, managing timelines and ensuring overall quality.

  1. Expert translator

At the end of the day, the linguist holds most responsibility for ensuring the quality of the final translation. At the beginning, they will review the document to check for suitability and identify any potentially queries to be resolved. During the translation process, they may identify further ambiguities and work hard to ensure their translation is a faithful representation of the source materials. Spelling and grammar checks are an integral part of their own review process along with a full review against the source, preferably after a break to allow them to see the translation with fresh eyes. A final read through enables them to check the translation reads naturally and that it will be suitable for the target audience.


Work with TLF

Our ISO 17100-certified, high-quality, specialist translation and revision service is delivered by a global network of experienced specialist translators, market-leading technology and expert Project Managers. We ensure you receive flawless translations and a seamless end-to-end service, across a range of sectors, including market research, healthcare, marketing, PR and advertising, travel and tourism, HR and employee development and many more.

Book a call with our team to find out how we can get the best out of your translation projects.



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