Accurate translation: more important than you think

Translating isn’t just any job. Online automatic translators are cheap and fast but they don’t always have the best quality, so it’s important to have quality control and hire experts. Learn more about how to have an accurate translation here.

Today it is increasingly important to manage more than one language. The same thing happens on our websites, they will have a much greater scope if the content is translated into another language. This way more people will be able to access it. However, this work can be hard. Doing an accurate translation is not a job that anyone who knows a second language or who can do a 100% successful artificial intelligence program can do. So how do you get a good translation? How do we measure the quality of a translation? Here we will give you some points to review when you are translating your content.

Why is it difficult to make an accurate translation?

Child writing in different languages to represent accurate translation

A language is a universe. It is not just a way of communicating that has other sounds, but a whole system loaded with different meanings. A language contains a whole culture. It is not enough to know the spelling and grammatical rules if you do not understand the context and it is just this problem that getting an accurate translation is not easy.

Let’s take an example: in French to say "I miss you", it says: "tu me manques", it means literally: "I'm lacking you". It’s a very nice expression, although it usually causes problems among those who are learning the language. Why? For many people, translating directly into their native language leaves in doubt who needs whom or in general the expression does not make sense. It is the same with words that only exist in a certain language as in Portuguese "saudade" that comes close in meaning to "nostalgia" but that has a much more melancholic sense. An accurate translation of "saudade" requires much more finesse in choosing the right words.

Having a deep understanding of a language makes you notice all the minutiae in meaning. Practicing a language, writing it, reading it, listening to it, speaking it in conversation with other people, is what makes you fully understand the meaning. However, this degree of understanding is not simple. It is something we do with our mother tongue because we are surrounded by that language, it is the one that is spoken at home or in our country, everything is in that language. When we learn a second language, we must make an extra effort to get that level of practice.

Of course, some people learn a second language from childhood and that helps them to have much more practice than someone who learns it when they are older. As this article explains: Why do adults struggle to learn a second language? It is almost always more difficult for adults to learn the whole language. However, even a child who learns a language does not have to be an expert in the grammar, syntax, and spelling of the language. The same is true of our mother tongue.

Who is aware of each rule of their language? Hardly anyone. How many people do you know who all their lives have spoken a language and still make spelling mistakes when writing? In fact, how many people do you know who, even when speaking, isn’t the most adept at words? Being an expert in a language is not a casual condition. It takes years of practice and study. That is why there are people dedicated to the study of the language and people who specifically prepare themselves academically as translators and are the ones who manage to make the translation more accurate.

Machine translators vs. Human translators

Scrambled letters to show the difficulties of accurate translation

Are translators really needed? There are already countless online programs that translate full texts. That miracle of artificial intelligence is a sign of human progress. And beyond that, more and more machines understand our language. Think of Sophia, the robot who in 2016 showed us all that she could have a conversation. Here you can see Sophia’s first awakening and how from the beginning she begins to speak. Or more colloquially, on Amazon Echo's Alexa or Siri on iPhone and everything they can do for us.

However, although these are great technological prodigies, they still have their faults. How many times does Alexa not understand if you try to ask for a song in a language that is not configured? Although technology moves very quickly and in leaps and bounds, our human forms of communication have variables that have not yet been transferred to algorithms and codes.

When we use an artificial intelligence program to do a translation, it’s hard to get an accurate translation. Here are some of the flaws that a translation made only with an online machine translator may have:

  • Changes in the sense: It may be that when moving from one language to another the translator does not understand the context and changes the meaning. This happens often with expressions. For example, if we translate word for word: «no es Santo de mi devoción» into English, we will say: «He is not a saint of my devotion» instead of «I don't like that person very much».
  • Unintentional changes: in addition to changing the meaning, other changes may occur that you do not want. For example proper names. Suppose you have a business called "Sugar Home" and when you translate a text that mentions it with an automatic translator you also change the name to "Home of Sugar". These types of errors are common and prevent your translation from being accurate.
  • Low quality: In general, automatic translators deliver low-quality texts. Changes in the sense or unintentional decrease the quality of the translation. The sum of such errors directly affects the final product, which will definitely not be an accurate translation.

On the contrary, there are quite a few benefits in hiring a professional translator. Here are some of them:

  • They know how to write: Besides knowing the language, he is a person who knows how to write. This means that it will improve your texts and maintain a style that gives a lot of quality to the translation.
  • Reviews: in addition to providing good writing, your translation will receive more than one review. By going through more revisions you will get a more accurate translation.
  • Adapt the message: as the translator is an expert in the language you will not suffer from the involuntary changes or sense as with the automatic translator. This is the main point that will give you an accurate translation.

Although automatic translators are fast and inexpensive, they can’t always translate everything. They can bail you out quickly, but not completely translate your website. That’s why you must always have a human look to help you achieve an accurate translation.

How to measure the quality of a translation?

Globe to represent different languages

For that, it is important to know what to look for in a translation to know that it is accurate. Here are some of the points you can take into account when hiring a translator:

  • The translation maintains the same message as the original text. Obviously, a translation must retain original meaning, this is the main purpose of the translation, and convey a message from one language to another.
  • Do not omit, add, or change any of the ideas in the original text. This is related to the previous point. When you keep a message you keep the whole text and nothing is added.
  • The translation retains the same style and tone. A text should have its target audience in mind. That is why a tone is chosen, to allude to them and therefore must be kept in translation.
  • It has good spelling, grammar, and syntax. Of course, someone who handles a language like an expert is always careful not to make mistakes of this kind.
  • Proper names, numbers, and dates are kept. As we mentioned before, automatic translators sometimes translate this kind of thing literally and change the meaning of the text.

If a translation fulfills all this you can be sure to have an accurate translation.


Notebook and dictionary of a person trying to do an accurate translation

Accurate translation is not easy to get. Online machine translators are fast and free, but they don’t always understand the full meaning of a text, so their translations are of low quality. Hiring a language expert to translate and review your texts is what will guarantee an accurate translation. To ensure that it is a quality translation you can check that the translation retains the message, proper names and dates as well as the style and tone of the original text, as well as having impeccable spelling, grammar, and syntax.

Have you ever had trouble using an online translator? Tell us in the comments.

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