What is translation?: Frequently asked questions

What is translation?: FAQ

What is the difference between translation and interpreting?

Translation involves the transfer of written text from one language into another. Interpretation involves the transfer of speech from one language into another.

Why can’t we just use Google Translate?

Even Google does not recommend using machine translation for professional documents:

“We recommend that you do not allow automated translations to get indexed. Automated translations don’t always make sense and they could potentially be viewed as spam. More importantly, the point of making a multilingual website is to reach a larger audience by providing valuable content in several languages. If your users can’t understand an automated translation or if it feels artificial to them, you should ask yourself whether you really want to present this kind of content to them”.1

Does a native English speaker also translate from English?

Most professional translators only translate into their mother tongue because this is the language they know best. A common exception involves minority languages which have few native speakers.

One of my colleagues spent a semester in the country where the language is spoken/ took a class in the language, why can’t he translate the document?

Translation is not merely the transfer of words from one language to another but the transfer of meaning. Therefore a translator needs excellent skills in both their foreign and their native language, in-depth cultural knowledge about the countries where their languages are spoken and often additional training in their area(s) of specialisation.

How many works can a translator manage per day?

That depends on the translator and the text to be translated. Although 2000 words per day is often mentioned on translators’ forums, certain types of text can take longer than others and Computer Assisted Translation (CAT) tools can often increase productivity. It is best to speak to your translator about a specific text if you are unsure how long to allow for translation.

Why do translators have specialisations?

Translators have specialisations because translating a text on a particular subject often requires an in-depth knowledge of that field and the terminology used. Therefore a translator specialising in finance will probably not be the best person to translate a software user manual. This specialist knowledge is acquired in various ways: some translators have degrees in or have worked in their specialist field while others have learnt on the job.

What is the difference between editing and proofreading?

Editing involves checking the content of the text to ensure that the ideas are expressed clearly and logically, and that the text as a whole makes sense.

Proofreading involves checking over the text in finer detail after the editing stage, to detect errors in spelling, punctuation, grammar and format. 2

MORE INFORMATION

Translation – Buying a non-commodity

Translation – Getting it Right