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QualityIf quality translations were only a matter of qualifications and experience, translations carried out by qualified and experienced translators would have never received complaints.
We think that the reality is different, as reflected by some translation producers.
"I have come across only one good Spanish translator among many Spanish translators I know of" - from an Argentinean translation manager in London.
"I know there are lots of German translators around as virtually every German speaks English but clients come to me as they know I was born in Germany when my English parents lived and worked there and only came back to England latter" - English owner of a translation agency in London.
"I am trying to find a good Vietnamese translator but I haven't found one. For my clients I still have to do translation myself because the time it takes me to proofread would be much longer if I were to give it to someone" - a Vietnamese associated professor translator in Hanoi.
"My view is that changes made by proofreaders have to be better choices, but for many proofreaders I have come accross, quite frequently the changes were not necessarily better choices and certain changes made my translation even worse. I have only come accross very few proofreaders with whom I mostly agreed" - a freelance translator working with Vietnam Connect for over 10 years.
Ultimately, each of three things bellow will play a part in translation quality. And if you have experienced a undesired translation it is likely that you are not really certain of how much of A), B) or C) the translator possesses, except their qualifications and experience.
A) Writing skill in the first language
Universally everyone can speak their first language fluently, but not everyone can write it well. This is due to the nature of the written language which tends to be more restricted, complex and compact than speech. Written texts have longer sentences and many subordinate clauses which require grammar, word use, sentence structure, cohesion and coherence.
In speech context and shared knowledge play a major role, so it is possible to use a more informal language and to leave meaning unsaid or indirectly implied. For written texts there is more need to write clearly and unambiguously, as the context and shared knowledge are less visible.
In short, the nature of written texts requires a different set of skills compared to speech and, as a result, would limit the number of competent writers. A qualified and experienced translator is not the same as an excellent writer and a skilful translator.
B) Understanding of the second language
For mother tongue everyone has all the time and conditions in the world to acquire and make it so strong. When it comes to the second language the time and conditions (environments) to acquire it are no longer the same and are far less favourable.
A frequent reason for basic translation errors is misreading of the source text due to the translator's weaker second language. Misreading often occurs with cultural words and complex or unfamiliar passages and sentence structures rather than with specialist terms, which supports the view that the increase in translator's experience may be more about the increase in their specialist terms and not necessarily the strengthening in their grasp of the second language and culture.
Like the first language, the native and natural environment, the time experiencing it and the way to approach it are more likely to make the second language stronger than qualifications and vocabularies.
C) Translation Awareness and Management
Translation strategy is probably the weakest point in the overall translation management. The lack of a suitable translation method is the main culprit that lets errors creep into many translations. Uncomfortable writing, confusing words and wrong, double or obscure meanings often come from unsuitable ways of translation, usually literal translation.
It is true that many times literal translations work but there are also many other times it won't work at all or at least won't work greatly. A competent translator would know when to translate literally and when not to.
Unawareness of what make a good translation is another reason for low quality translations. Without knowing what requirements (specifications) are for a good translation the checking applied by translator is only to detect small mistakes (like spelling) and not really to improve the translation quality.
Over the last 13 years we have worked with many translators to identify and retain a small team of skilled and competent translators and we always look out for new talents. We train and agree with our translators on policies, requirements and procedure to ensure control of accuracy, comprehension, consistency and style. We rely on team work among native speakers of both Source language and Vietnamese to manage the catch 22 in translation that one cannot really have two mother tongues. In addition, banking, medical, technology and other specialist terms are always cross-checked with people working in their fields.