Misconceptions about Translation

“Translation…is that even an industry?”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, the translation industry is expected to grow by 42% this decade. The most important reason for this growth is globalization. In 2012, the same market research firm estimated the translation industry size to be about $33.5 billion, and Entrepreneur Magazine says it’s now over $37 billion and growing. The numbers don’t lie: the industry is expanding rapidly as a result of rapid growth in emerging economies. Consumers will continue to demand everything on their own terms, and that includes a preference for communicating in their own language. More and more companies, especially those who export, will continue to seek out translation services to expand their international footprint.

“I speak 6 languages and majored in Spanish; why would I need a translator?”

Being multi-lingual and doing the work of a professional translator are not equivalent. The process of becoming a professional translator is very similar to the process o becoming a professional in any field. It takes education, training, and certification. One such certification is offered by the American Translators Association (ATA). To become certified, a candidate must meet education and work experience requirements and pass a rigorous exam. The ATA exam is known for having a stringent grading process, and the failure rate is high—currently over 80%. Anyone who successfully passes this exam is not an entry-level linguist but a seasoned translator.

“I need a translator for my Japanese clients at a trade show in Detroit.”

Translation and Interpreting are two different things. Translation is written and unidirectional (from a source language into a target language), and interpretation is verbal and can be unidirectional or bidirectional (back and forth between two languages), depending on the requirements. Interpreting typically takes place in person or via phone, and sometimes requires the interpreter to travel to a specific location—such as a trade show in Detroit.

“Machine translation rocks!”

Machine translators provide literal word-for-word translations and frequently result in erroneous gender and verb tense associations. They do not consider the surrounding context when converting from one language to another. At best, the resulting translation is faithful to the original text but lacks fluidity and style, or may be just plain inaccurate.

At worst, the output is a jumbled mess. As an example, take the exclamation above and plug it into a free online translator. Case in point:
– From English: Machine translation rocks!
– To German: Die automatische Übersetzung gleicht aus!
– Back to English: The automatic translation balances!
– To Portuguese: O equilíbrio automático de tradução!
– Back to English: The automatic equilibrium of translation!

A machine will never be able to match the skillset of a human translator, especially when considering localization, targeting a specific location, and industry relevance requirements. There are more than 6,000 known languages, and each one is a complex, variable phenomenon. No language can be effectively represented by an algorithm
or mathematical equation.

“I need this 500-page manual translated by Monday.”

Obtaining a quality translation requires the use of a professional translator with relevant understanding in the target industry. Translating corporate documents, training manuals, or any other specialized content generally requires a project plan and adherence to project methodology; by design, this requires time and specialized skills. The process consist of several phases, including:

1. Estimation and analysis: Obtaining word counts and analyzing content
2. Team formation: Matching linguists to the task and confirming availability
3. Translation and editing: Completion of translation and review by two separate, equally qualified linguists
4. Quality control and delivery: Final check of deliverables by project management team, to ensure adherence to all special instructions or requirements

The greater the complexity of the document, the more time it will take to ensure that the proper steps are taken to produce a quality product. Ultimately, the decision to cut corners to save time or costs will result in sloppy work that damages credibility with your clients. To ensure a quality product, use professional translators that adhere to the steps outlined above.



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