There’s a lot of jargon around translation out there. Barely a week goes by without seeing someone blogging on about some fancy new idea, or tossing in some made up translation accreditation. Crowd sourcing was one. In China there are a lot of people with spare time to do voluntary translation – movie subtitles, novels – a typical problem is the lack of English understanding and consistency. Harry Potter in Chapter 1 transmogrifies into Hans Solo by Chapter 6. Furthermore translation is writing and not all of us write well, do we! There was another mob in Sydney that had all sorts of Japanese Translation credentials on its website – problem was they were all made up!
Google translate is turned to by all of us sooner or later and regularly referenced in the mainstream – remember Spics and Specs on ABC TV doing song lyrics- “Turning Japanese” saw song lyrics translated into Japanese and then back into English using an online machine translation; contestants then had to guess the name of the song! Certainly some types of texts will work OK with a machine translating it rather than a human. Where there is a high degree of repetition and limited range of subjects a machine can be taught to do a good job. Technical manuals and weather forecasts come to mind. So there you go, a plug for Google Translate!
“I’m in love with your body” became “I like that cadaver”!
“Although my heart is falling too” became “But my organ drops right out”
“The only one who could ever reach me, was the son of a preacher” became “Only one person contacted me – a minister’s male child.”
“Aint no mountain high enough; Aint no valley low enough to … to keep me from getting to you babe” “Landforms don’t prefer to get high; Depressions don’t prefer to fall over … I’m going to purchase your baby”
However, the bottom line is that human translators must be involved – that is the only way to be sure your work is correct or creative and tailored to your target audience, and to protect you from become a laughing stock.
A shuttle bus delivering travellers from the airport one way to the CBD, in Chinese translation became a type of Doctor Who Tardis in space offering a one-way sexual experience –the queues were long for that one!
Just like you engage a good writer to create content in English, so too you need to use a good translator (human) to translate it. They must be a language expert (in 2 languages)! Sounds obvious but how often do we hear ‘my daughter’s classmate/ friend’s mother/VCE son is studying Chinese or running a restaurant and translated this!’ The person you choose should also write well – maybe hard for you to judge but perhaps the styles of work they handle can give a clue. Translation qualifications are essential.
A good translation company will also work with you to adapt and copywrite text so that it is shaped and expressed in a way that will resonate with the reader
And that tattoo read: “After all this is an ugly boy!”
Like athletes using steroids to get to number one, there are no genuine shortcuts other than hard work, practice and harnessing suitable technology to help performance, not to replace the human role.
So next time you hear about ‘fastest translations’ or ‘translations in an hour’ with less human interaction, think twice.