Preparing a piece of communication for public broadcast can be a daunting task, let alone having it translated into languages you don’t understand.
It seems obvious, but getting your communication right before embarking on a project like that is essential.
When companies or individuals communicate in their native language, there is naturally minimal thought put into how they will be perceived. People tend to assume that it will be perceived in much the same way that they view it (which is a fallacy to start with), but in actual fact the implied meaning is often far from how it is interpreted.
Any communication directed at a specific target audience should be written through the eyes of that target audience.
When we undertake a translation project, our first consideration is to always picture the recipient. Who are they, why is this message for them and how might their cultural background interpret our translated words?
When we share this approach with our clients, we notice that some of them start to analyse the text that they are asking us to translate. It might read a certain way in their language, but will the translation in a foreign language be able to convey the same message as the original intended? It is not that surprising, but the discussions sometimes lead to a realisation that their original content isn’t quite as ‘fit for purpose’ as they thought it was.
You only find new meaning when you are challenged to search for it.
The basics of being a good translator is to ascertain exactly what the source document means. But it certainly helps if the source text is on point. We delve deep into the layers of meaning, questioning our clients when something is unclear, and it is in that space of uncertainty that they themselves realise that they could be communicating more effectively in their own language.
I am happy to say that this is another reason why I think that translators will remain ahead of the machines, in providing a consultative rather than a mechanical service.
Secondly, it is surprising how little thought goes into some corporate communications. Just because you are putting words onto the page doesn’t mean that they are the right words. Our job is to be pinpoint in our choice of words; and when you have a translation partner that adopts such a forensic approach, it is worth checking that you have chosen the right words in the first place. Otherwise the exercise can start to resemble a twisted game of Chinese whispers. If we think that something doesn’t sound quite right for the context, we will attempt to mention it. We are here to add value in any way we can.
I suppose that is why I love my job so much. Our teams of translators are all trained to question these sorts of things and I often get the feedback that they have added massive value in that way.
No thought is perfect, and every piece of writing can be improved.
Why don’t you work with a translator who will not only translate your words but will also seek to challenge them when they feel it necessary?