Picture this. You are in Seoul, watching a K-drama, but alas! No subtitles. Or perhaps you are a business in Singapore aiming to reach the markets in India and Vietnam. You are presented with a linguistic challenge. The solution? Translators and interpreters. These linguistic experts do not merely convert words; they ensure you 'meet your audience where they are' and 'speak their language'. Ensuring clear communication of messages to your audience is not just an art, but also a necessity.
The Many Shades of Translation
Just as Asia is a tapestry of cultures, the realm of translation has its variety of colours.
Human Translation vs. Machine Translation
Human Translation: The timeless art, much like traditional Asian crafts, where a human brain, rich in cultural and linguistic nuances, peddles their craft with words and translates text for others. Human translators are professionals that rely on their linguistic skills, cultural understanding and subject expertise to render content from one language to another.
Pros: Work with a human translator when nuances, context and emotions are important. You get to discuss your concerns and goals and to come up with solutions to address them.
Cons: Like any human communication, there may be errors and mistakes sometimes, or a difference in perspectives. This can be addressed through communication and clarification, spell checks and careful proofreading in the translation process.
Machine Translation: The modern tech-savvy approach, where computers and AI work their magic. This is automated translation aided by online translation tools and software. While it can be fast and suitable for understanding the gist of content, it often lacks the finesse and accuracy of human translation and requires some expert copy-editing and polishing before the translation is ready for use.
Pros: This is quick, easy and fairly suitable for small businesses or projects without a budget, particularly when accuracy is of low priority and the stakes are not high, like when you just want to get a rough idea of what the text means, e.g a news article or report.
Cons: This is a bad idea if you don’t have anyone on the team who understands the translated text who can proofread the translated content in detail. Machine translation is definitely not recommended for documents where the stakes are high, like terms and conditions or contracts and agreements, where mistakes can be costly.
There is a mistaken belief that human translation and machine translation are mutually exclusive. That’s not true. Especially in the fast paced and technologically adept society that we live in today, translators are technically attuned to utilise software and tools to enhance productivity and quality of translation output.
Translation vs. Transcreation
Translation: A key tool used in bridging the gap between individuals, groups of people and organisations that do not speak the same language. It has been around for centuries, driven by commerce and culture. The first major translation documented in the Western world is the translation of the Bible from Hebrew into Greek in 3rd century BCE.
Pros: If you need to replicate the text accurately, faithfully and fluently in another language, that’s translation for you. By ‘faithfully’, we mean the actual intention of the writer of the original text.
Cons: Translation alone might not be suitable for projects requiring more creative input, where accuracy is not enough. In such cases, you’ll need to work with a transcreator (or marketing/creative translator) who can work with ad copy.
Transcreation: Imagine taking the soul of a Chinese poem and expressing it with the rhythm of a Malay pantun. This is transcreation, where messages are reborn to resonate with a new audience. Transcreation is more than translation. It involves some copywriting or copy-editing, adapting the message from one language to another, whilst keeping its intent, tone and context. It's used particularly in marketing and advertising to appeal to a new audience while preserving the brand's voice and message.
Pros: With transcreation, you get to persuade and enthral your audience with stories and analogies, and making them feel at home with you.
Cons: Transcreation has its place in marketing and advertising where persuasive writing and storytelling is prized. Due to the need for creative input, the fees for transcreation are higher than that of regular translation. For specialised text, like engineering, legal or medical texts, there is no true need for transcreation. At the very most, you might just need to transcreate a headline.
Working with a Translation Service Provider
Every translator has their own style and areas of expertise, so working directly with an individual translator may support your business only up to a certain extent. A good translator is usually busy with pretty full weekly schedules. If your go-to translator is not available, do you have a back-up plan?
Also, if the word count crosses a certain threshold or if your business starts to expand to more markets and you start to have multilingual translation requirements, you will need to start working with a translation service provider rather than individual translators.
A translation service provider is essentially a solutions provider and consultant combined into one. They work with a team of professional freelance translators, selecting the best fit for each project. A good translation agency also helps you to manage the scheduling of translation projects as well as coordination with the multiple translators and copywriters working on the different stages of the translation process.
Although each translation project has its different requirements, there are some general steps in a regular translation process.
Translation: The process of converting content from a source language to a target language. This is the first step of the translation process. Translators may use computer-aided translation tools (CAT tools) like Trados or memoQ to produce the translation.
Proofreading: Once the translation is done, another linguist checks the content to ensure that there are no errors or omissions. Translation issues are flagged up and addressed at this step. The translator who handled the first step may be consulted again on the changes made by the second translator to see if they agree with the proposed corrections.
Monolingual Copy-editing: In some projects, a third linguist will review the translated file without referring to the source text, polishing the content to ensure flow and coherence in the target language.
The majority of projects involve both translation and proofreading, with different linguists handling each step to ensure optimal quality and to cover any blind spots that may be overlooked. In rare cases, some clients might choose to handle the proofreading internally, especially if they are proficient in the target language.
It takes a village to raise a child, and it sure takes a team of professional translators to create translations that work.
So, the next time you come across a beautifully translated piece, know that there is an entire ensemble behind it, led by a masterful translation service provider.
At Wei.Trans.Create, we speak the language of people, bringing humans closer to one another.
Reach out to us here if you have a translation enquiry!