Translations - who checks them?

Subject: Translations - who checks them?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 20 Sep 2002 12:31:01 -0400

David Chinell reports: <<I'm looking for a generally accepted business

Are there any such things? Before someone mentions "accounting", I have one
word for you: Enron. <g>

<<When your product's manuals and help system are translated, who checks the
results? How?>>

I check them personally because I'm sufficiently competent in the
English-French direction to do so, but I still have a French expert verify
nuances of wording that sometimes escape an anglo like me. Having a
bilingual editor isn't a luxury most firms can afford, but the principle
remains the same: the person doing the verifying must be competent both in
the language of the translation and in the substance of the translation.
That usually means you need a local user who is expert in both the language
and the product.

<<Do you (your company) assume that it's the translator's responsibility to
deliver an error-free product?>>

Never assume; yes, it _is_ their responsibility, but not all translators
live up to that responsibility, and even those who try find perfection an
unreachable goal many times. To use a somewhat infamous phrase: "Trust but
verify!" <g> I've been working with translators for going on 20 years, and
even the best ones occasionally err. (We're all only human, after all.) The
only way to catch the inevitable errors is to perform your own quality

Please note that this is not a criticism of translators; rather, it's an
observation on the nature of the work. Just as even the best writers can
benefit from editing, translators can too. Translators face an even more
difficult challenge because many things don't translate precisely between
two languages. English and French are relatively easy because of how similar
they are in word use and grammatical structure; English and Chinese are a
much more difficult problem. (Speaking from experience here, as I'm
currently grappling with the nuances of Mandarin to prepare for a trip to
China. The old skull seems thicker and less permeable to new words than once
it were. <g>)

<<How do you know if they are or aren't?>>

By hiring someone competent to confirm the translator's work.

--Geoff Hart, geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada
580 boul. St-Jean
Pointe-Claire, Que., H9R 3J9 Canada
"User's advocate" online monthly at
"By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is
noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience,
which is the bitterest."--Confucius, philosopher and teacher (c. 551-478

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