Translation test pieces and why they’re important

March 12th, 2021 by dutchlink

You wouldn’t buy a car without a test drive. And, if you were choosing an architect, you would read the reviews or get a personal recommendation.

So why not do the same when buying translation services?

Most professional translators are happy to provide a test piece – sometimes for a small fee. And, (add comma) if you obtain several test pieces, you have an easy way of comparing quality.

So how do you assess the quality of a translation?

The baseline for any translation is accuracy: that means translations must have no omissions and must be 100% accurate.

The next key area is terminology: calling an enterologist a doctor who specialises in disorders of the intestinal tract is plain silly; if your document talks about ball-head screws, you want the corresponding word in the target language (if there is a corresponding one): you don’t want a generic word such as fastening. The same applies vice versa: if your document talks generically about fastenings, you don’t want the translation to narrow down the concept by talking about screws.

Matters such as style and readability are more difficult to measure and will depend on factors such as the clarity of the brief given to the translator to complete the assignment, the document’s degree of specialisation and the translator’s own stylistic preferences.

What about style?

Test pieces also protect the translator from disagreements about preferential elements further down the line, which is especially important if style is important to your project.

You may find that you prefer the style of translator A to the style of translator B. It doesn’t mean that translator B is a bad translator, just that their stylistic preferences do not match your own.

Who will check the test pieces?

If your budget is tight, at the very least, you can run a paragraph-by-paragraph check and verify all the dates, figures and proper names, checking also that they have been localised.

Alternatively, you can commission another, independent translator to carry out a comparison of the different test pieces, with a report.

This way you should get an analysis of the different test pieces, showing the strengths and weaknesses of each translator.

Is it worth the bother?

If you have an important project or book that requires that extra je ne sais quoi, most definitely yes. Getting the right translator for the job will save time and expense in the end.

Another bonus is that commissioning a test piece means you enter into a dialogue with the translator, and that is always important for a future relationship.

Get to know your translator

In the translation industry, professional translators have thick skins. Translators produce words, (add comma) and clients can and often do disagree with their choice of words.

Professional translators should welcome this back-and-forth dialogue, and a fee for this type of consultation can be built into the overall price agreed for the work. By entering into a dialogue with the translator, clients can better understand a particular choice of word or phrase. And if you, (add comma) as a client, (add comma) have specific preferences, this is the time to discuss them with the translator.

Find a translator who is in a professional association

For complete peace of mind, it’s always best to find a translator who is a member of a professional association, such as the ITI or the CIOL. It is the hallmark of a translator’s professional competence and also your guarantee that, (add comma) if there are any disagreements in the future, you can always escalate your complaint.

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