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Matthias Bieber, Berlin
What to Bear in Mind when Commissioning a Translation
If you write the text to be translated yourself or are able to influence its formulation, please ensure it is written clearly and concisely. The quality of the source text is the most important factor in determining the quality of the translation.
Allow sufficient time for the translation. Give the translator a deadline which allows him to work on your translation without time pressure and clarify any queries that arise.
A word about the express service at this point: I will be pleased to translate your text as a “rushed job” provided I can furnish you with a quality translation in the short space of time available. Nevertheless: Please do not commission the translation of texts which need to be perfect and may entail consultation with you at the very last minute as a rushed job.
What does translating actually involve?
Translating is a complex process. It is not just a matter of having a good command of two languages. The translator must understand the source text perfectly and be able to express himself fluently and precisely in the target language. Knowledge of the subject-matter is indispensable, particularly for translation of specialist texts. But even in the case of texts of a general nature, there are plenty of potential pitfalls such as the so-called false friends or other interferences by the source languages in the target language. And while a text in a foreign language may be easy to understand, it can still be far from easy to translate.
Professional translators have learnt how to cope with such problems as a matter of routine. That’s why you should entrust translation of your texts or documents to an experienced translator as a bad translation can cause problems and ultimately result in substantial further costs. Misunderstandings occur which take you time to clear up. Clumsy translations of advertising copy damage your reputation. Instructions for use which nobody can follow discredit your products and annoy your customers, not to mention liability questions which may arise. And, in the end, the translated text may have to be reworked or retranslated.
How to go about finding a translator?
You can undoubtedly make the best choice if you have a large amount to be translated and sufficient time at your disposal. In such a case, you can begin by giving a translator you have “short listed” a small part of the text to translate. This will enable you to assess the working relationship with him and see whether you are satisfied with his work.
Apart from this, recommendations by others, professional experience, membership of relevant professional associations (BD‹, AD‹-Nord, ITI, etc.) as well as training in translation or an examination in translation indicate that you will be dealing with a professional.
In the case of specialist translations, ask your translator to be whether he is familiar with the field in question.
Do not make price the principal criterion for your choice of translator. Compare prices by all means, but make sure the translator you choose is a “pro”. He may often not be the cheapest, but a good translation needs time for research and formulation. The time this takes is ultimately the price of the work performed.
Once you have found a translator...
provide him with all the information he needs for a good translation and give him answers to all the questions he asks in connection with the translation: The quality of the translation will benefit from an insight into background and context;
tell him who the translation is intended for (target group); this will help him to attune the translation to the recipient;
tell the translator if you were satisfied with his work and also mention any problems. This will enable the translator to take your special needs into consideration in future translations.
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