Why Bad Translation is Not Always The Translator’s Fault

A Shopify store owner decides to add another language to his store in order to attract a wider audience. He hires a professional translator to translate his blog to make sure that the output will be better compared to machine translation. The translator accepts the job, works diligently, and delivers the end result, but the shop owner isn’t pleased. Disappointed with the outcome, he hires another translator, but find a similar pattern of mistakes in the work done by the second translator also.

If this sounds somewhat similar to your experience, this blog is for you!

Raising the standard of translation does not always require replacing an existing translator. In fact, doing so may prove to be counterproductive. You can get a fairly good job done by an average translator if you are careful about a few things.

This blog lists out 3 crucial elements which, when given proper attention to, will significantly reduce your chances of getting a botched-up translation:

Give Proper KT (Knowledge Transfer) About Your Business

Expecting a translator to come up with the text you imagined, without ensuring good knowledge transfer, is simply impossible. Without knowing about your business model, your target audience, your objective, your USPs, and other important factors that set you apart, a translator will never be able to bring magic in their words.

Hence, next time you hire a translator, make sure they understand what you do and how you do it in great detail. Only after getting acquainted with your vision and your business a translator will be able to deliver the desired output.

Relay Dos & Don’ts From the Localization Perspective

A translator, in principle, should be an expert in both the source and the target language. However, they may not be completely well-versed in the culture and other details associated with that language. This make them prone to using certain words and phrases that may leave the readers perplexed, if not offended.

For example, a person translating a piece of text from Spanish to English may choose to use vacation and holiday or apartments and flats interchangeably; however, if your target audience is American, you have to specifically tell your translator to use vacation and not holiday and apartments and not flats. This is because Americans speak very differently from the British.

Similar is the case with phrases. Hence, you must give your translator some initial guidelines so they can do their job correctly.

Tell Beforehand If You Want Word-to-Word Translation

Translating an academic paper or a technical manual requires the translation to be strictly aligned with the original, without adding or subtracting anything from the original. However, when it comes to translating blogs, web pages, and other more marketing oriented digital content, a more conversational and direct language is preferred even if the translation is not 100% literal.

Often, due to various reasons, businesses prefer their translated content to be fully aligned with the original. In such cases, it is always better to inform the translator beforehand, or else, they may end up changing the text to convey the right tone.

To sum it up, out of the many probable reasons, not informing or educating a translator about your vision, business, target group, and objective may become the main reason for poor translation. Also, you should try hiring someone who at least knows a thing or two about your business and sector, as they will have a better knowledge of your work, and that will reflect in the final translation outcome.