A Preferred Translation Or An Error?

In almost every translation project there are multiple approaches to producing a high quality translation. Since there is often more than a single term (synonyms, etc.) or approach that can be used to express equivalent meaning in a target language, seldom can one translation be considered definitively best or most correct to the exclusion of other possibilities.

Sometimes clients’ internal lay reviewers of translations will identify items that depart from their individual language preferences and refer to them as ‘errors’ in need of correction. Most times the identified items are not errors but instead alternatives to the reviewer’s ‘preferred translation’ or approach to expressing equivalent meaning. While no one can 100% rule out the possibility of error in any human activity, true translation errors in projects delivered by reputable translation companies are infrequent in the presence of quality control measures such as having translated text proofread by a second translator (a standard practice for our company).

How Translation Clients Can Help

When clients have known preferred translations for certain keywords or frequently used terminology they have the opportunity to provide a glossary or list of preferred translations at the beginning of a project. Translators can refer to preferred translations as a resource during the course of the project. Using a translation memory (TM), an electronic file storing the language elements of translations, can also support the objective of maintaining translation continuity internally within a project and across multiple projects over time.

Buying The Judgment of Professional Linguists

In general translation clients can be thought of as paying for the professional judgment of linguists who work with language on a daily basis. Their job is not to somehow predict what subjective language preferences a client’s reviewer might have.

Usually this purchase of judgment is a good bet for clients since translators have established language skills acquired over years of project work. They often have improved perspective on language relative to a client’s internal personnel as well.