I translate exclusively into my mother tongues, English and French. As I grew up bilingual, I can guarantee the same level of quality when translating into either language, and have a fully native level in both.
Many translation projects make use of various specialized terms. If there are relatively few such terms, a bit of research is usually enough to solve any misunderstanding. Highly technical translations however, may contain enough such terminology that it would be foolish to merely rely on research to find the right terms. What you need is a translator with significant experience or expertise in the subject matter, so as to make sure no subtleties are lost in translation.
My specialty fields are IT and marketing. I can perform translations in many other fields, provided they are not overly technical. If you send me a project for a translation that would require too much specialized vocabulary, I will refer you or subcontract the job to another translator with more experience in the subject matter. Accepting such a translation project would be unprofessional and would undermine translation quality.
I will refuse any translation project with too short a deadline, or that my current workload does not allow me to give enough time to. A translation job done in a hurry cannot be a good quality translation, or at least, not as high quality as it could be. I refuse to compromise quality for the sake of handling emergencies.
Do you really need your translation immediately? What if it comes back with awkward sounding phrases because the translator didn’t have time to find a wording that sounded nicer? What if the translator misunderstood something because he/she didn’t have time to ask for clarifications or to do a careful comparative proof-reading to check for omissions? Is it really worth it? In most cases, you can afford to wait a few days longer so as to be sure you get a high-quality translation.
But if your deadline really is inflexible and too short for me to be able to deliver a high quality translation, then I will refuse the project.
If I’m booked up and can’t take on a new project, or if the translation would require specialty fields outside of my skill-set, then I may subcontract the job to a fellow translator. In such cases, I work exclusively with a select group of translators that I know and whose skills I am confident in. I will not simply offer the job on “auction” to whoever has the lowest rate, as too many translation agencies unfortunately do. In so doing, how could I be sure that the translation is high quality?
If I do subcontract a translation job, I will proofread the finished translation carefully afterwards, so as to be sure that it’s up to my quality standard.
Here is the approach I take to translation, in order to guarantee the highest possible quality:
Some degree of research is often needed before starting a new translation project. The best thing is to start by scanning the document for unfamiliar specific vocabulary or terms that need research. This may involve terms that are client-specific, or domain-specific. This research allows me to create a glossary (if needed) that will be enriched throughout the translation and can be sent to the proof-reader to ensure consistency.
- First draft
I typically then dive in and make a quick first draft of the translation. I deliberately translate fast at this point, so as to ensure a smooth-sounding style: if you spend too much time thinking carefully about the translation, the result will tend to be too close to the original in terms of syntax and sentence structure. So in the first draft, I simply take note of any translation difficulty, make a quick attempt and continue. This approach is very important for the sake of quality, for an overworked, belabored translation rarely makes for a pleasant read.
During translation, I often have questions for the client. Often the text is ambiguous or unclear, or it may contain errors. I may also suggest making some adaptations for the target audience (converting units of measurement for instance, or currencies, or cultural references), and in such cases, I will need to check with you to see how you would prefer things to be handled. It is vital to take time to ask such questions, for the translator’s best guess may very well be wrong, as I am not intimately familiar with the client nor the subject being discussed. In order to ensure translation quality, I take time to ask questions if there is the slightest doubt. This is one reason why it is essential to give generous deadlines: if there is no time to ask questions, the translator will have to guess.
Once the first draft is finished, I typically leave it at least till the next day. That allows me to step back a bit from the text and come back to it with fresh insight. Revision consists of rereading the translation carefully to make sure nothing was omitted or altered from the meaning of the original. I also rephrase the translation as needed if I am not satisfied with the style.
- Optional external revision
If you requested it, I will then send the translation to a separate linguist for further revision, along with any glossary or other notes I may have made during research and translation. Getting an outside eye to check over the document is often useful, though by no means compulsory. Such a revision can help spot mistakes or perhaps find ways to improve on some of the phrasing. No matter how good quality the translation, extra revision certainly never hurts. When I get the document back, I then check over the suggested changes, and either keep or reject them as I see fit.
- Final proofreading
Once revision is completed, I then perform a final proofreading, the next day if deadlines allow, The aim at this stage is no longer to compare with the original, but just to check for typos, and read over the translation to make sure it sounds fluid and smooth. I may also need to make further style improvements, though they should be minimal at this point.