What makes a translation effective?
Effective communication is the transmission of thoughts and information in a manner that ensures the message is understood by the listener or reader in the way the speaker or writer intended. Therefore, an effective communicator is somebody who clearly conveys facts, sentiments and convictions.
Being an effective communicator is particularly crucial when translating from one language and culture into another. The translator is not the author but transfers the communication on behalf of the client. Here are a few points to consider when a translator ‘does your talking’.
Understanding the content
Before a translator should do anything, they need to make sure that they understand the content and the intention behind the message. Failing to do this will make it impossible to communicate the message effectively in the target language. This applies to technical translation in particular. You cannot translate a text well if you do not have a clear understanding of its content. Another crucial aspect to think about in relation to the content is the intended target audience. It is important to consider their perspective and to talk to them in a language they understand.
Conveying tone of voice
A translator also needs to address the tone of voice in their writing. It’s not just about accurately recreating the factual elements of a text, but also about capturing the sentiment of the message. A high-quality translation should capture any nuances, emotion and conviction present in the source and understand the underlying motivation and values. Capturing all of this in written form, i.e. without the help of variation in volume and intonation, means that words have to be selected carefully – and this can be quite an art at times. Which brings us to the next point…
It’s hardly surprising that translation is about choosing the right words. It’s about being articulate and specific, as well as skilled at getting a message across clearly, using respectful and non-judgemental language – whilst also pitching the text at the correct level for the target audience. Where there is reference to a culturally specific topic, concept or humour and it is appropriate to do so, extra information or adaptations are required to ensure these alien concepts are communicated to the target audience as clearly as possible.
At Matterhorn Languages we believe, our line of work is as much about effective communication as it is about recreating the words in another language. Paying attention to content, tone of voice and the language we use means we endeavour to achieve the desired impact with every text we translate, whether it be marketing material, a letter, or a technical report.