Business Translation Center

Are different standards acceptable for different types of translation?

by OFER TIROSH 17/05/2017

Companies who are new to using translation services could be forgiven for assuming that professional translation is a ‘one size fits all’ kind of profession. In reality, different types of translation require a very different approach. They also attract very different kinds of translators. 

Creative translation 

Various fields of translation call for a creative approach. Two notable areas that require a creative approach to translation are marketing and the arts. Marketing documents are designed to evoke a certain reaction in consumers. Often a literal translation would not achieve the same impact, so marketing translators need to think creatively about delivering the same concept and feeling as the original document, if not necessarily exactly the same words. 

Creative translation also applies to those working on literary texts, from vast novels to individual film titles. The film ‘Alien,’ for example, was renamed to ‘The Eighth Passenger’ in Poland, Hungary and Yugoslavia (a decision which endures – not without controversy – to this day). 

Literal translation

In other areas, far more literal translation is required. Legal, medical and real estate translation, for example, certainly don’t encourage creativity when it comes to converting text from one language into another. In these (and many other) sectors, the focus is on translating incredibly closely to the original copy. 

A medical paper explaining the risks of a new drug being trialled, a legal document outlining contractual conditions or a document of sale defining the boundaries and structure of a property clearly all require immense accuracy in terms of their translation. 

Translation standards

Whether the translation is literal or creative, it must still be of a high quality in order to properly represent the author (whether an individual or a legal entity) of the original document. At least, that’s the way it should be. Interestingly, there seem to be some surprisingly high profile companies who are willing to let their translation standards slip. The translation of the recently released Persona 5 video game is one of the highest profile examples of this. The language used in the English version of the game is stilted and littered with errors, leading one gamer to set up and entire website detailing the flaws in Persona 5’s translation

Such a poor standard of translation is surprising in this day and age. A professional translation service is only as good as its last job and must therefore continually strive to produce the best translation possible. 

Machine translation

Poor translation can often be attributed to the use of machine translation. Compared with human translation, machine translation remains of poor quality due to its inability to deal with nuance, implication and the incredible subtleties of language. Humans continued to out-perform machines in terms of their linguistic abilities. It takes the humans longer to produce the translation, but the overall quality is far better. 

If your business is new to the world of translation, avoiding machine translation is the best first step you can take! Feel free to contact Tomedes for a full discussion of your translation needs and the kind of translation that is most appropriate to your business.