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Translation Process – Why Do Translators Need It?

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The translation process sounds like something complicated and expensive. Doesn’t a translator just take a document, then sits down, and types the translation as he reads through the document? Should be done in the time it takes him to read it, doesn’t it?

If only translating a foreign language was that simple. After all, human language, any language, is one of the most intricate and complex things the human mind came up with. Language is built on common sense or understanding of context and creativity. Even with the fast pace, artificial intelligence (AI) is catching up with us humans, many experts are of the opinion it might never fully catch up with the intricacies of a human language.

It turns out translation is a complex procedure. Complex procedures often involve more than one person, use of specialist skills and specialist tools. Translation is no exception in that respect. That is why it is a process comprised of a number of stages and steps.

Appropriate and quality translation requires an adequate translation process, which has:

  • Three Stages of a translation process 
  • Specific steps within each stage
  • Document submission, translation, editing and proofreading
  • Post-translation steps and possible modifications

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Stages and steps in a translation process

Why would translators need something called the translation process? Because translation is not just simply consulting Google translate or your cousin who might be familiar with a foreign language. When Google Translate was first introduced, it most often made no sense in the target language. It usually made those making a query laugh. Since then, such AI translation tools have made enormous strides. If you need to know what your foreign relative wrote to you in a private letter, it will do quite well. Or, you can use some extra help from a member of your family who has studied, say Spanish in high school.

But what if the topic is work-related and you need to know precisely what the document says? What if it is a detailed technical manual, a medical report, or a legal document?

The so-called machine translation has made huge advances, and in many cases, it can do a good job. But in more demanding cases, you’ll have to engage a professionally trained translator. It could be a freelancer or an agency that has a number of niche translators on hand. For them to do their job professionally and precisely, they have to go through a translation process that has its stages and steps.

Essentially, there are three main stages of the translation process. These are a submission of a document(s) to be translated, translation itself and proofreading and editing. Only after all these stages have been completed, can the final translation be submitted to its requester. These stages should apply whether the document was submitted to a single freelancer or a translation agency.

Each of these stages has a series of steps that should be undertaken. Only then will the complete translation process yield the best results possible. And this is how it can work for you.

Details of a translation process

When the requester submits a document or documents for translation, the freelancer or a member of a translation agency has to fully understand what is needed by the person making the request. If possible, he should be aware of what is going to be its end-use. For example, is it going to be a basis for a legally binding contract?

The translator has to make an initial overview of the document and see if he needs any additional information from the requester. The next thing he has to do is to determine the terminology that he needs to use. He then needs to search his or the agency’s database for the adequate term and phrase glossary. He also has to make an assessment on how long it will take for him to make the draft translation. In most cases, the number of words in the original text does not determine the time span it will take to finalize the translation.

During the process of the initial translation itself, there are at least a dozen things a translator needs to take care of. From the accurate transfer of content, omissions or additions he needs to make, the use of appropriate terminology and register. He also has to make appropriate collocation (a noticeable arrangement or conjoining of linguistic elements such as words). Then, he has to watch out for tautology, consistency, appropriate grammar, syntax and tense usage. Finally, he has to check spelling and punctuation and the required layout and presentation.

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Editing and proofreading

Before he sends the document for proofreading and editing, a translator should do his own quality control. These days, the translators have at their disposal a range of software tools to help them. Such tools offer help with the appropriate terms or phrases. They also include checking tools like XBench (Quality Assurance and Terminology Management) or QA Distiller (a tool to find translation mistakes in bilingual files). Such help comes in very useful when there is more than one document within a set project. Also, the translator or agency could have previously worked for the same requester. There is also the possibility that those working on a project have to keep consistency within a bigger project, or what the requester’s specific needs.

There is one more step the translator should take before pressing that ‘send’ button. He should let to document sit for a day or two and then check one more time if everything is as it should be.

The editor needs to make meticulous comparison of the original document with the draft translation. He practically has to take the same set of steps that the translator took when he was translating it originally. Then the editor needs to read the final translation without referencing the original document to check the quality of expression.

Proofreading seems to be a straightforward exercise. But with large documents, for example, court decisions, it is often necessary to do a double proofread. This often involves two or more persons. After all, this has been done, the translator usually gets back the document(s) for corrections and accepting the editor’s revisions.

Is that all?

Often, that is not all that has to be done. Deadlines could be shortened or extended, documents reduced or augmented. Also, the requester could have some additional needs or requests. All that needs to be taken into consideration when a plan for the translation process is being drafted.

On the surface, translation can seem simple. The ‘only’ task a translator has is to turn a document in one language into another that can be fully and precisely understood. But almost any translation requires a number of stages, steps, technical tools, and often a group of three to five people (sometimes even more) to get the job done. Therefore, a translation process is quite demanding and involves time, effort and expenses.

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