not every translation needs to be perfect

Not Every Translation Needs to Be a Piece of Art

not every translation needs to be perfect

Professional translation is a product made by an expert. Professional translators are happy to be responsible for their work and guarantee the quality by their reputation. Good reputation is especially vital to freelancers and entrepreneurs because satisfied customers are likely to recommend the service to their network. However, when reputation is too much depended on the quality, the industry becomes stiff and inflexible to new ideas.

Translator is an old profession. As long as people have travelled and communicated with each other translation and interpretation services have existed. Until the recent introduction of  widely available machine translation, this job has been done by humans. This has been working well in the past when firms and other organisations formed the main customer base for translation services – but today the situation is different.

The demand for translation services is nowadays more versatile than before. In addition to the traditional items like books, brochures, manuals and subtitles, translations are nowadays needed in many everyday situations. The Internet and social media have multiplied the amount of international communication and the need for translation solutions. Today, people need help in understanding foreign language texts.

The idea that English is the global lingua franca is false. It may feel like it if you live in the Western countries where basically everyone studies English in the school. But the globe is huge and the majority of people don’t master English well enough to be able to understand long messages, manuals or guides. They need easy and simple solutions that help them in understanding the core messages. They don’t need a perfect translation.

Quality costs. When good enough is enough there’s no point to pay for higher quality than is needed. People often choose machine translation because it’s fast and easy. They aren’t always satisfied with the quality and would need another option. The traditional translation services don’t fit into their needs and the industry hasn’t been able to create an affordable solution for this growing segment.

There will always be a need for professional translations. There’s no doubt about it, but we will also need just good enough translations for understanding various types of content. Although machine translation is often good enough, sometimes people would be willing to pay for a translation that isn’t perfect but helps them to understand the content better than automatic translation. The solution may come in the form of a new translation service or a better machine translator. Anyway, there is a demand for all kinds of translations from good enough to pieces of art.

4 thoughts on “Not Every Translation Needs to Be a Piece of Art”

  1. I can accept that there is a need for “good enough” low-cost translation, and that some of this need may be fulfilled through the use of machine translation.

    But the proponents of machine translation are often misleading their customers as to what is “good enough”.

    Good enough for what? Good enough for gisting – fine, unassisted MT is often good enough for that.
    Good enough for certain types of technical documentation – at least in certain language combinations? Yes, I think that sometimes MT (with good pre-editing and post-editing) may be good enough for that.
    Good enough for the translation of Web sites, or other customer-facing documents? Sorry, if you suggest to your customers that MT translation is good enough for that you are misleading your customers. Unless your customers are willing to pay for the necessary very thorough post-editing. And even with very thorough post-editing, you would always be able to see the difference between a professionally tranlsated customer-facing document, and one that has gone through MT+post-editing.

    Ask you customer: would you be happy with a shoddy Web site, one in which the text feels laden, does not encourage the reader to read on, does not interest the prospect in the products offered? Unless your customer would be happy with that sort of quality for the original of their site, they will not be happy with the quality available through any MT service.

  2. Excellent comment, Riccardo! The need should determine the choice of the translation method. Unfortunately, sometimes the need and the resources don’t match and compromises have to be done.

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