ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

What Makes a Good Translation?

Updated on July 21, 2011
Professional translation services
Professional translation services | Source

What makes a really good translation?


Often this is a tricky question as most individuals have a notion that all it really takes to translate a material is a proficiency in the language, ideally at mother tongue level.

However, if you are one of those who have experienced watching a sub-titled film wherein you understand the original language, you have probably encountered moments of confusion as you read a sub-title that doesn’t quite capture the original feeling and intent being conveyed by the film.

If you have ever experienced such, that is exactly what defines a good translation: capturing not just the right words but the emotional intent of what is being said. A good translation is not just about selecting words. It is the critical choice of word, which captures the nuance of the moment, which spells the difference between “I have strong negative feelings about you”, and “I hate your guts and I hope you die a painful death”.

A good translation for me may not be a good translation for you...


In artistic and creative fields, for example, the impact of a film or say a novel on its audience, specially if it is a foreign one, is highly reliant on the choice of authentic sub-titling that captures the emotional nuances of a script. One can only imagine perhaps, a few films who may have lost out on the Palme D’Or at Cannes because the sub-titling did not quite match the depth of feeling and spectacle that was unfolding visually.

Even in creative sectors that deal with more day-to-day communication such as describing television program concepts for selling across markets or advertising a shampoo brand worldwide, the emphasis on capturing a translation that will appeal to the desired audience demographic is further highlighted.

Granted, there are cases and sectors where these considerations are totally absent – in technical translations, such as laboratory protocols, engineering specifications, and automobile parts manufacturing. However, in most cases, there is still a strong need to construct and identify the right cultural context to capture the real meaning of the original source material.

The right Filipino word for 'rice'? Well, it depends...

An experienced Tagalog translator will know that there are several Filipino words for “rice” depending on whether you are describing it raw, cooked, the rice grain variety and the extent to which the grains have been milled. Raw rice in general is called “bigas” while hot, cooked boiled rice is called “kanin”. Cooked rice that has cooled down is called “kaning-lamig” which is used for fried rice called “sinangag”. “Sinangag” cannot be called “kanin” even if the former is also cooked rice as it has gone an extra step i.e. being flash fried in a pan after being boiled. Rice that is cooked to porridge like state is called “Lugaw” which can never be described as “Kanin” even if both undergo the boiling process, as its grains are very broken down to a mush state. “Bibingka” means rice-cake which is made from “Malagkit” a kind of rice grain specifically used for sweet/[pudding type recipes which is in no way interchangeable with “bigas” the variety for boiled rice that accompanies savoury dishes.

A good translator doesn't just blindly translate


Knowing such kinds of context as in the above translation for rice comes into play for example when translating ingredients for labelling. The wrong context for an ingredient such as sugar, fish sauce or rice depending on their usage in a recipe could actually lead to a product not being able to launch in a market if the ingredients listing unwittingly runs into disapproval from the local food registration authority.

To this end, it is worthwhile to note that the best translations are often the ones where the translator has read between the lines. A good translator isn’t just about identifying words that literally translate a material. They should also be experts at capturing the psychological nuances of communication. In effect, they are also cultural literati who will ensure your material will never lose its impact, no matter the market.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Transcription services US 

      5 years ago

      Transcription Services US has a professional approach towards their clients and can assist in all types of video, audio and Legal documentation transcription and translation.

    • World-Traveler profile image

      World-Traveler 

      7 years ago from USA

      Thank you for interesting information on translation. I particularly liked your comment about recognizing and emphasizing the emotional part of the translationand and also about reading between the lines.

      After seeing and reading about the rice I got very hungry for some rice:-) and that brought back a happy flood of memories about all of the years I spent travelling in Laos, Myamar, Malaysia, Thailand and Japan.

    • translations profile imageAUTHOR

      translations 

      7 years ago from London, UK

      Thanks a lot for all your encouraging comments! They make me feel very welcome.

    • kids-toy-box profile image

      kids-toy-box 

      7 years ago

      Hi Jill (saw your profile)...good article on a topic I have personal experience with. I am a native English speaker living in Germany...prior to learning German I was lost translation—I found that most instances when you translate each word--you end up with a misinterpretation. I agree with your conclusion of reading between the lines rather than a literal translation.

      Look forward to more from you!

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      7 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      I have been doing transcription and translation work from Chinese to English for over 30 years. For someone who is not bilingual, it is a very challenging task. Interpreting is an even more challenging endeavor. You wrote a good hub and I look forward to more from you on translation.

    • Made profile image

      Madeleine Salin 

      7 years ago from Finland

      Welcome to HubPages! You've written a very interesting hub. Often they don't translate everything in subtitles either.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)