Shopping for Translations

The other day while I was at the airport waiting for my plane I sort of asked myself how I would go about shopping for translations services, assuming that I knew very little or nothing about the industry or services. How easy would it be to contact with a company who not only support me with my translation needs, but also to give me advice on how to best proceed, what content to translate? Going global can be very expensive and ROI is a major factor in any business, so it needs to be done right. With my budget in hand, my Director would probably ask me to arrange our AW15 Catalogue to be translated into the 6 languages.

A Google search for ‘translation agencies’ brought up ‘approximately 4,110,000 results’ (in 0.56 seconds). A good start would be setting a list of requirements and needs, checking with industry associations and getting some names, searching and looking them up, start a selection process. I realised that this was going to take a while and that is as far as my exercise got.

With literally millions of translation agencies on the internet, most of which seem to have the same offering, making the selection process even harder, shopping for translations may be a daunting experience.

A relationship with a Language Partner that fully understands the time, effort and skill involved in developing a distinct brand identity, which customers over the world will recognise and identify with, is the objective. A partner that helps you become a true global brand by capturing the elements which make your brand unique and successful in your domestic market, and transmitting the same message consistently to a larger global audience.

Have you ever thought about who actually wrote the book you are reading?

Wilde, Tolstoy, Kafka, Dostoevsky, Rushdie, Bukowski … Banana Yoshimoto … no matter who your favourite writer is – they have all been translated!

So let’s say your mother tongue is English and you love Tolstoy’s uncomplicated style and careful semantic constructions. Are you aware that what you are reading is only a translation? That it is only a close copy of Tolstoy’s original art?

Of course, incredible care has been taken rendering it into English. It has been closely analysed, proofread and reviewed a good number of times. But, at the end of the day, it’s still just a copy. And as similar as it may be to the original, it could be the style is not quite the same, certain little nuances may have not been captured or some literary images may have been localised in order to make them understandable to the target audience.

Lucky those whose mother tongue is Russian. They are able to enjoy Tolstoy’s masterpieces in all their magnitude. But then, on the other hand, they will not be able to enjoy Shakespeare’s literary insights without the filter of translation or savour Kafka’s majestic wordplays.

Indeed, Kafka is an interesting case in point. Some of the first translations of Kafka’s works into English are notorious for not being very exact and for distorting the reader’s experience of the novelist. Kafka in the original German wrote very long sentences with a multitude of subordinate clauses, and these are very hard (if not impossible) to render in English. Translators have to find a way of ensuring the effect desired in the original is replicated in the translated text.

As our services are B2B focused, we usually don’t translate these kind of texts. But we do have to deal with similar issues in order to ensure that your message hits your audience with the desired effect.