13/04/2015 10:28

I am always thrilled at initial discussions between clients and linguists. Many times, the client has never placed a translation before and they are not sure about their specific needs, so it is our task to assist them until we end up with a clear brief for both parties.

Something as simple as getting some personal documents translated, say a birth certificate, needs special consideration. The Consulate may have asked for a certified translation, a sworn translation, or a Notarised translation. Whereas I can provide a self-certified translation or a translation certified by a solicitor, only sworn translators can prepare sworn translations and Notarised translations require a visit to the closest Public Notary. I also need to check the situation regarding the Apostille, as most Consulates require an Apostille is added to the document prior to translation. All these additional steps before or after the translation itself require precise scheduling, as more often than not, there is not much time before the client's trip abroad.

The use to which translation will be put will also determine the type of translation involved. Sometimes people just need to know what the text is saying, so the translation is purely for information purposes, but most often than not it is for publication, as in the case of company newsletters, press releases, handbooks, websites, etc.

The Experts Advisory Group on Languages Engineering Standards (EAGLES) discusses translation quality at length at www.issco.unige.ch/en/research/projects/ewg96/node165.html#SECTION001116000000000000000

and I am copying that text below for those who would like to read more on the subject.


Translation quality

Until recently, there has basically been only quality translation, meaning the best a translator could reasonably offer. Translation work has strived at perfection and nothing less. Nowadays, however, demand has arisen for variation in both directions. Levels of translation quality can be described at least in the following terms:


  • raw translation
  • normal quality translation
  • extra-quality translation
  • adaptation of original text

Raw translation means a translation which conveys the central meaning of the original text. There may be grammatical errors and misspellings, but the text has to be understandable. Typically, this could be translations of large amounts of scientific abstracts.

Normal quality translation corresponds roughly to the translations of old. The original text is translated fully and the translated text is grammatically correct and reasonably fluent. The text may be awkward at times, but the contents of the original text should be understood completely from the translation. Typically, this could be a translation of a technical manual.

Extra-quality translation implies that the translated text is both fluent and idiomatic. The translation should be assimilated completely to the cultural context of the target language. One should not be able to recognize the translated text as a translation. Typically, this could be an advertisement brochure or a piece of literature.

Adaptation of original text is not actually the direct translation of text but the production of new text based on foreign language original(s). The resultant text need not have to correspond sentence by sentence to the originals, but may instead even have omissions or reorderings according to what the translator deems appropriate. The resultant text is expected to be fluent language.

Section Measurement of translation quantity contains a sample of different classifications of quality in use in five European countries. As quality of translation has started to vary so has the extent of translation work. In addition to merely translating texts translators are being required to handle new tasks both before and after the translation work. The following classifications can be made:

  • proof-reading and grammar checking
  • updating old translations
  • making new translations
  • editing and translating text
  • editing and translating text and making the layout
  • oral gisting: producing a quick oral summary of the content of the source text

Proof-reading and grammar checking basically means going through a translation done by another person for possible errors and stylistic reasons. This person may vary from a professional translator to an ordinary employee. The length of this work varies naturally with the level of quality of the translated text, which in turn depends on the linguistic skills of the original writer. Typically it should take considerably less time than the actual translation work, but in some cases it may lead to rewriting the translated text completely. Actually some checking of the source text is sometimes done and may serve to simplify the subsequent translation task.

Updating old translations means translating only those parts of the text which have changed in the original. This requires that the effects of the changes are such that translating the new original in full would take considerably more time than just translating the changes. It also implies that the changes are relatively easy to identify. This type of translation work is typical especially for technical manuals. Version control is an important problem in this area.

Making new translations means doing the translation from scratch. Different levels of doing this have been described above. In addition to merely translating the text, translators are often expected to raise the quality of the text by editing the resultant text. Furthermore, translators are sometimes also required to take care of the layout of the resultant text. These auxiliary tasks are on the increase and adding to the skills required of translators.

Naturally the level of translation quality corresponds directly with the quantity of translation work. So does the extent of translation work.