If you’ve shopped around a few different agencies for translation quotes, you’ll probably have found that rates vary significantly. Why is this? And when it comes to translation, what are the indicators of quality and value?
Accuracy and Readability
The quality of translations can be judged according to two criteria: accuracy and readability. An accurate translation correctly interprets not only the vocabulary and grammar of the source document, but also its tone. A readable translation sounds natural and is well written.
Ideally, of course, translations should be both accurate and readable – in the green zone of the diagram below. Getting here requires a high level of skill on the part of the translator as well as the work of a good editor/proofreader, one who preferably can also understand the source text.
At the other end of the scale – in the red corner – we have less accurate and less readable translations. This is what you get from free online translation Web sites. Translations are instant, free – and generally not very readable.
In between, in the blue corners, we have translations that while technically accurate just don’t read well, and translations that read well but might skew the original meaning here and there.
At first glance you might think that translations that fall into anything other than the green zone would be unacceptable. Yet for various reasons (including budgets and deadlines) all these other types of translation may be fine for certain applications in certain circumstances.
Let’s look at a few example assignments to illustrate the point.
- An Advertisement for a Print Magazine
Budget: Adequate | Schedule: Tight
Advertising copy can often sacrifice a little ‘accuracy’ for better readability, since the tone and the overall feel of the text is usually more important than making sure every last word and grammatical nuance is transferred faithfully from one language to the other. Another reason why advertising copy sometimes has to trade off accuracy and readability is because common advertising devices such as double meanings and other wordplay often cannot be translated literally and retain any sensible meaning.
- A Business Proposal PowerPoint Presentation
Budget: Limited | Schedule: Reasonable
This is a situation in which, given a limited budget, it would be better to keep the translation as accurate as possible, even though the translated text might lack polish. With this type of presentation, it’s the ideas that will sell the proposal, not the literary style in which they are presented.
- A Product Brochure for Consumer Electronic Products
Budget: Adequate | Schedule: Reasonable
Product brochures serve a marketing purpose and so must be well written. But from an ethical and legal point of view they also have to be accurate in the detail. Product brochures for electronic products such as cameras and audio equipment may contain technical language aimed at enthusiasts or even professional users, as well as technical specifications. These must all be translated consistently and accurately, but also maintain a high degree of readability.
- A Press Cutting Translation for the Overseas Head Office
Budget: Very Limited | Schedule: Tight
These kinds of assignment usually have a very limited budget and are wanted as soon as possible so that they remain timely. Often it is the gist of the original that needs to be conveyed rather than the absolute detail. For this type of translation, as long as the overall thrust of the piece is adequately communicated, a somewhat ‘rough’, low-budget, quick turnaround translation may be all that’s needed.
Choosing the Package that’s Right for You
At Modis we offer several translation packages to suit the requirements of the job, rather than the flat-rate, one-size-fits-all approach of some other companies. Whichever package you decide on, you can rest assured that your project will be translated, checked and edited by real people with solid language skills.