How do you tell a good translator from a bad one? It’s actually pretty simple when you know what to look for! To help you out, here are a list of things that a bad translator might say, compared to what a good translator might say: 

Native Languages

Bad: “Although my native language is English, I got an A* in A-Level Spanish, so I’m capable of translating this document into Spanish” 

Good: “Although I have spoken Spanish for a huge part of my life and have a University degree in Spanish, my native language is English. Therefore, I will translate Spanish into English, and leave English into Spanish translation for native Spanish speakers, who have a unique understanding of the language” 

Subject matter

Bad: “I know the languages well enough that I can translate any document, the subject matter isn’t really important” 

Good: “I am not an expert in medical translation, I’m not familiar with all the terminology and I wouldn’t feel comfortable translating documents of this subject matter”

Self-editing

Bad: “I’ve been translating for over 5 years, so my translations are always accurate. I’m careful not to make any mistakes whilst I’m translating, so that means I don’t have to waste time at the end checking my work” 

Good: I have been translating for over 20 years but I always check my work, even for the most straightforward projects. I know mistakes happen all the time, even to the most conscientious translator.

Literal translations

Bad: “I always keep my translations completely faithful to the original, everything gets translated exactly as it is written in the source language”

Good: ” I recognise that remaining totally faithful to the source text is often impossible, and overly literal translations can be nonsensical translations. I will use my experience in translation to skillfully rewrite the source text in the target language where necessary, to create the intended meaning.

 

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