Some say that human translation is a thing of the past. As machine translations become more and more precise, what sets a human translator apart?
We could (and probably will in a later post) count dozens of reasons why human translation is here to stay. But one that gets little publicity is writing skills. Why? Because behind a great translation is a great writer. After all, a translation is, in essence, a rewrite of the original. Let’s take a look at how translators use their writing skills, and why it’s so important.
Translate the idea, not the words
A great translator approaches the piece like a writer, seeking to transmit the same idea as the original. For example, take a translation from French to Japanese. More often than not, a literal word-for-word translation into Japanese makes no sense at all.
First, translators must pull the meaning and ideas from the French text. Then, they put them into a Japanese context. Because they are skilled writers, they craft their translation to make the same ideas and concepts relevant for Japanese readers.
Maintain the right tone
Most importantly, a high-quality translation keeps the same tone as the original. Now, a word-for-word translation, in many languages, can still be understood (however inelegant). But tone is different. Translators must first understand how the tone strikes the reader in the original language. In Asian languages, this is especially important. Like, any good writer, a good translator makes sure that they strike the right tone in the target language.
The end result can stand alone
When the translator strikes the right tone, the end result will be well written. At the same time, a human translation becomes a work of art in its own right. We have all read translations that read awkwardly or in stilted, unnatural language. The translation is clearly just that: a translation. Readers can sense that they’re getting a second-hand product. On the contrary, a great translator uses their writing skills to ensure that their work stands on its own as a well-written piece.
A truly super human translation
Now, that’s not to say that there isn’t a place for machines. Our superpower at Word Connection is the way we leverage the best of both human and machine for our projects. In fact, all of our translators have high-level training in the use of Computer Automated Translation tools (CAT). Combined with our server solutions, these tools rapidly increase translation project speed without compromising quality. The machine’s thoroughness helps us catch human error and help us provide consistency and reliability.
Because writing skills are key to a good translation, we make sure that our translators are also great writers. Not only do they provide the creativity, but they also provide evaluation and feedback that machines lack. Producing an excellent translation that can stand on its own is not a science, but an art.
Yes, machines can help with terminology management, project management and streamlining our processes. But no, science cannot yet produce great writing. Until then, we’ll value and keep training our superhuman translators who craft their art with care and precision.