- Difference between translation and interpreting
- Difference between good translation and bad translation
- Sources of highly technical information
- Limited budget
- Revising a bad translation
- Mechanism of multilingual translation company
- Translator’s writing skills
- Excellent free sample, bad actual job
- So many bad ones, so few good ones
- Law firm’s nightmare
- Rewriting vendor’s translation
- Scarcity of reliable translators
What is the difference between translation and interpreting?
Translation generally refers to a written rendition of a document. Interpreting generally refers to an oral rendition of a speech. An oral rendition of a document is called site translation. To provide a written translation of a speech, the speech must first be transcribed in the original language. Return to top
What is the difference between good translation and bad translation?
Good translations are easy to read. Bad translations are awkward. Contrary to the popular belief, the quality of a translation cannot be measured by mechanical accuracy. Many translated documents with few apparent “mistakes” are confusing, unnatural, and difficult to understand. Return to top
How do you cover so many different areas and industries with your boutique operation? The big translation company I contacted told me that they had all kinds of specialists in their enormous pool of translators.
Regardless of the size of the company, the pool of available translators is the same for all of us. The online trade directory is open to the public, and the relationships between translators and agencies are nonexclusive. At Ohnaka & Associates, we are simply more selective than most others. To reinforce our capability, we have third-party consultants who provide us with professional input in many fields, including medical, pharmaceutical, legal, financial, and IT. Chances are that the mega agency you contacted has been using our services when they need those “specialists.” Our core strength as a solid translation team is an accumulation of skills and experiences, which will be scattered if we operate like a big placement agency. Return to top
I want to create a Japanese version of my Website. You say, “Don’t hire the cheapest translator on the market,” but I’m an owner of a small business. What else can I do?
You may not have to translate all the English text you have. Consider keeping the product lists and contact information in English. In some cases, you don’t need lengthy legal statements for Japanese customers, so ask your lawyer. Instead of translating “How to get to our office,” consider using Mapquest. (A Japanese version is available.) Summarize your English paragraphs using bullet points. Remember, it is much more effective to have a limited amount of polished Japanese text than it is to have lots of awkward sentences and embarrassing mistakes. Return to top
We are not happy with the quality of the Japanese translation our vendor did. Can you revise it?
We routinely review and evaluate translations done by others. We can fix partial problems. However, translations that are awkward, confusing, and unreadable cannot be overhauled with revisions. They must be redone from scratch. (You know that trying to fix a defective used car is futile.) That’s one of the reasons we always tell our clients and inquirers to shop carefully. Return to top
Many translation companies claim that they can handle dozens of languages from around the world. How can they do that?
Such companies are staffed with project coordinators who contact external freelancers, typically relying on the online directory of the American Translators Association. Their coordinating services are useful in multilingual productions. The downsides, however, are high margins and the inconsistent skills of the translators they hire. Return to top
Why is it necessary for translators to have professional writing skills? Don’t they just repeat the same sentences from the original document in a different language?
Visit any Japanese Website on your browser and, using Google’s automatic translation tool, translate one of the pages into English. Google’s translation tool never makes a human error. The dictionary on Google has an enormous vocabulary that a human translator can never match. Theoretically, Google translations should be more accurate than the work of the best human translator in the world. But in reality, the sentences and word choices in Google translations are awkward and many times are not even comprehensible, because Google doesn’t know how to write well. Language translation is a human task that cannot rely upon mechanical accuracy. Good translators read between the lines and determine the cultural and linguistic appropriateness of the words and phrases they translate, even in legal and technical fields. A translator’s solid writing skills are just as important as the translator’s knowledge of the two languages. Return to top
When we received a free sample translation from the company we are now using, it was excellent. But the actual translations we are receiving are nowhere near as well done as the sample was. Why is this happening?
Those “translation” companies subcontract most jobs to the cheapest freelancers they can find, but they hire the best translators on the market to work on the samples to impress their prospects. As soon as the contract is signed, they switch back to their regular discount freelancers to maximize their profit margins. You should be wary of any service provider that claims to offer “low rates and high quality.” In addition, impossible deadlines are another major cause of poor quality. A combination of a drastic discount and a rapid-fire turnaround is most likely to result in unsatisfactory work. Return to top
There are so many Japanese translators on the market. Why are there so few good ones?
There are so many bad ones because this is an unregulated industry. Anyone can claim that he/she is a translator. But in reality, it takes complex skills to translate a document from one language to another, especially when the grammatical structures, common expressions, and cultural backgrounds of the two languages are as drastically different as those of English and Japanese. Works of unskilled translators are like HTML code; they may be technically correct, but most people have to struggle to understand the meaning. Return to top
What was the worst experience you’ve had as a translator?
When we were reviewing legal documents for a law firm, out of the blue a mega translation agency indiscriminately e-mailed us (and multiple other recipients) a large number of documents that contained a massive amount of highly confidential information on the opposing party. The email message read something like, “Please, anyone, translate these docs ASAP.” All pages of the documents were clearly marked as confidential. That agency calls itself an ISO-certified global leader. Return to top
My Japanese assistant spends so much time rewriting the translations done by our vendors. Why is this necessary?
If your vendors’ translations are always incomplete or clearly different from the original documents, you should find a new translator. Regardless of the quality of the translated document, however, this is a time-consuming task for your assistant because he/she needs to read and compare two documents word for word. In addition, it takes much scrutiny to determine accuracy and overall quality of translated documents because the grammatical structures, standard expressions, stylistic requirements, and general verbal communication manners of English and Japanese are drastically different. Some translations may be theoretically correct but too awkward for actual use. Others may be readable but the original expressions may not be adopted precisely. In such cases, translators and editors are forced to compare apples to oranges and make compromises. Return to top
Why it is so hard to find a reliable technical translator? I don’t understand the English translations of the Japanese patent applications our vendor did.
There are two reasons: (1) Generally speaking, it is much harder to find a decent writer of English with sufficient reading skills in Japanese than it is to find a reliable Japanese writer who reads English sufficiently well. (2) Even if you’ve found a reliable Japanese-to-English technical translator, the original Japanese documents may be problematic. As is the case with many Asian languages, Japanese is loosely structured compared to English. Japanese technical writers frequently omit subjects, write one-sentence paragraphs, and disregard verb tenses. The original document can be edited for foreign patent applications, but if it needs to be submitted as legal evidence, the original content must be strictly followed even if it appears awkward in English. Return to top