Archive for the ‘Myths’ Category

Offshoring Translations

January 19, 2011

Yes, of course, why not. But like with all products or services acquired from lower-middle-income countries, some aspects need to be considered:

  • Is the price the only criterion you base your decision on?
  • Are you familiar with the translation business?
  • What do you expect from the text?

Generally, you should never just pick the first provider in, say, India or China that comes along, even though there are plenty. But then again, this is true also for language service providers (LSP) in your home country.

So, the really decisive criteria apparently are the two others. (1) ‘Do you know your way around in the translation industry’ and (2) ‘What do you expect from the text’.

If this is the first text that you need to have translated, you should be very careful who you pick. Better ask around whether someone you know can recommend a good translator or agency. Chances are higher that you will get what you want.

Which brings us to the third criterion: This is probably the most important one. Do you just want to get rid of the task without putting too much emphasis on the result? Then go ahead. Not much can go wrong in this case.

On the other hand, if you want a high-quality result and a properly managed, smooth-running translation project, you might want to proceed as follows:

  1. Pick a translator (freelance or agency) who gives you the impression that s/he cares about you, your company, and your text.
  2. Check the translator’s credentials and experience in translation in general and in the text type and subject matter at hand.
  3. Provide as much background information as possible in terms of terminology, existing bilingual texts, details on the author and the target group, etc.

And, please, beware of translators whose only reply to your initial request is: “Yes, I can do it. How fast do you need it done?”

It is better to plan translations ahead and pick your translator with care. You get better results from true professionals, whether they live and work in your own country or somewhere else.

Think globally, act responsibly


Speaking a Language vs. Translating from/into It

May 26, 2010

Not everyone who speaks a language is able to translate from or into that language. This holds true for English as well as any other language spoken on this planet.

Still, many “native” speakers are abused into translating texts when there is the need.

Why is that so? And why is it not advisable?


The Dictionary Myth

February 24, 2010

Many people believe that a good dictionary makes half a translation. Well, actually, most translators don’t even use conventional dictionaries in their work, except perhaps to verify a few general technical terms. And only if the proper term in the other language doesn’t pop into their minds right away.

Why is that so? And what do professional translators use instead?


International English

February 19, 2010

You probably heard about this type of English. You will probably be surprised to read that no one speaks this language.


Aren’t There Machines Already That Do Translations?

January 20, 2010

There are. In science fiction and in our dreams.

Wikipedia Image

Well, seriously, machine translation is an idea that’s been around practically for several decades now. Unfortunately, it is still in the research and development stage, although some pretty intelligent engines are already available and in use.

However, it appears that language is among the most sophisticated inventions of the human mind. Therefore, machines still can’t do it properly.


The Work-in-the-Mother-Tongue Myth

December 3, 2009

I was surprised recently by the reaction of some guys when I told them that I work mostly in English. English is not my mother tongue, you know, but I have been writing in and translating into this language for over 13 years now. These guys seemed all but shocked over my presumptuousness.

It made me realize, however, that the translator colleagues I know are totally untypical of the profession. Most of them work in the foreign tongue. They write original texts in English and they translate texts from other source languages (most of them German) into English. Most of the translator colleagues I work with have years of experience in this and the feedback they receive from native speakers is overly enthusiastic.

On the other hand, and I guess this is what gives us credibility, we are all professional translators. We all have finished translation studies at university level. Maybe this is not so typical of translators as well. Many people offer translation services, although they have no official translation education. Well, many translated texts I see are of extremely low quality.

Makes one wonder, whether there’s a connection…

The Native Speaker Myth

November 11, 2009


Time and again, I get the following phone call or some conversation very similar to this one:

“Hello? Yes. Erm, you do translations, don’t you?”
“Yep. Erm, do you also translate into English?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Aha. Good. Well, you see, we had this text translated recently by a native speaker, hm.”
“And, erm, now our subsidiary in Kansas, well, hm, they tell us it’s not good.”
“Aha! Is this native speaker of yours a professional translator?”
“Well, erm, not exactly. Actually, he is from Sydney, but he’s been with our company for quite some time now. He is a software developer.”

Need I say more?

Speaking a language as one’s mother tongue is never sufficient qualification for doing translations. Professional translators spend several years in translation training. They know how to do it right.

Trust me

Writing English for Non-English Audiences

October 28, 2009

A common reply I get after I tell my usual story about text quality, research work during translation and the necessity of a SME (subject matter expert) to clarify questions is: “The audience are not English native speakers. So, the translation need not be so precise.”


Actually this is a common mistake. And, actually, nothing could be more wrong…