A Language Translator’s Checklist

As a professional language translator, you will be gauged according to the quality of your work. In a business where translating a single word cost around 30 to 70 cents per document (and this document may contain more than a thousand words), your clients will demand an accurate and well translated document. Is it merely enough that you have faithfully translated, word for word, a document and say with certainty and confidence that it is a good translation? Will your client see it and read it as a good translation? You need to have a certain set of criteria to judge your work. You may presume, sometimes rather reasonably, that what you have worked on is good since you poured hours and hours of sweat upon it. But the question here is, is the quality of your translation suitable enough?

Laid down here are four simple things to bear in mind when closely scrutinizing your own work. Although the criteria upon translated works differ since more academic works require a more in depth scrutiny, the basic principles are essentially the same. Here are the criteria for a good translation, according to Massoud (1988) and a brief explanation for each. Omitted were some criteria stated by Massoud, for these would apply to purely academic literary translations. Things like allusions to sayings in songs, folktales and similar text are seldom or never tackled by professional language translation services. You will most certainly not come across a client who requires the translation of the Gospels in Aramaic. 1. A good translation requires full understanding of the text to be translated including knowledge the grammar and vocabulary of the source language – Simply put, a language translator must be competent and well versed in the written and oral language of the original document. Only by being so can he produce a fairly accurate translation of the original document to the target language. 2. A good translation is easily understood. – Simple and practical enough. A reader must be able to understand the translated document. A clearly written translation, without any ambiguities, is easily understood. Unless a client requires full confidentiality, a simple way to apply this tip would be to ask someone else to read your work. If he understands it and all the contents are clear, then you have done a good job.

3. A good translation is fluent and smooth. – If you have ever read a machine translated document, then you will see that this is not how to do it. If it is choppy and awkward to read, then it definitely is not fluent and smooth. Sometimes the best way to illustrate a point is to show how it should not be done. Hence, if your work reads just like a machine translated document, you need to polish it up. 4. A good translation will convey, as much as possible, the meaning of the original text. – This criteria is perhaps one of the most important of all. Translation is not merely paraphrasing or finding the equivalent word from one language and replacing it with another. Words and documents, in whatever language, convey and idea or a concept. If you can capture the essence of that concept and translate it to the required target language, then you have a good finished product in your hands. In order to be better at what we do, we need a benchmark. By following these four simple tips, not only as a guide but as a benchmark, then your work as a professional language translator will hopefully measure up to the basic standards required in the field of language translation.