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Translation: Let’s trust the professionals
From: Translation Bureau
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Like you, I wouldn’t ask a friend to fix my car just because he likes to tinker, or ask someone to prepare my income tax return just because she’s good with numbers. It’s the same with translation: it’s crucial to entrust your English texts to a professional translator.
I live in Toronto, where there are few Francophones and even fewer fluently bilingual people. This state of affairs can result in some pretty comical situations in everyday life, but especially at the office.
There are pros and cons of machine translation
Reluctant to bother me for “simple” translations, my Anglophone colleagues are increasingly relying on machine translation tools to come up with a quick translation for a sentence. Just hearing the words “machine translation” makes me cringe. Let’s get something straight: machine translation has its advantages, but it has a lot of limitations, too. The software just needs to misinterpret one word, and you end up with a sentence that’s completely absurd. Of all the nonsensical things I’ve ever seen, my favourite is still a website’s home page button, which had been translated into French by the word Domicile instead of Accueil! As you can well imagine, my eyes almost popped out of their sockets when I saw that mistake!
Asking a Francophone for help may not be a good idea
Maybe some of your colleagues, acquaintances, neighbours and friends speak French as a mother tongue, but that fact doesn’t make them translators! In fact, knowing how to speak French is one thing, but knowing how to write it correctly is something else. And we all know that the French language is full of subtleties, exceptions and traps that turn it into a minefield for anyone who hasn’t mastered it. Bilingual Francophones are not necessarily capable of translating a text, and they don’t necessarily want to, either.
Translation isn’t just replacing one word with another
We’ve all seen bad translations before. And no one appreciates poor-quality service, even if it was inexpensive. That’s why it’s important to make an informed choice and opt for an experienced translator, with genuine expertise. Canada is lucky enough to have excellent translation associations, including the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario and the Ordre des traducteurs, terminologues et interprètes agréés du Québec, as well as many others. I recommend that you use them to find a professional!
What does it mean to be a professional translator?
What are the characteristics of professional translators? Here’s a short list for your enlightenment, but note that translators do not have to meet all the criteria below to give excellent service.
- They have studied translation or have equivalent training.
- They are members of a professional translators’ association.
- They translate into their mother tongue and have an excellent knowledge of spelling, grammar and syntax.
- They are experts who translate texts on subjects and in fields they are familiar with, whether architecture, engineering or the arts. This expertise means that they are proficient in a technical language that uses very precise vocabulary, rather than approximate terms. For example, you wouldn’t ask a literary translator to translate a financial statement.
- They choose correct terminology by using data banks such as TERMIUM Plus® and the Grand dictionnaire terminologique (in French only).
- They use a wide variety of writing tools. My favourite tools in French are Clés de la rédaction, the Rouleau des prépositions and the Dictionnaire des cooccurrences.
- They ask questions about the text to make sure they have understood it correctly, and they sometimes find inconsistencies in the source document.
And what about you? I’m sure you’ve come across some bad translations yourself … So share some gems with me in the comments section. I’m looking forward to reading them!
Translated by: Josephine Versace, Language Portal of Canada
The opinions expressed in posts and comments published on the Our Languages blog are solely those of the authors and commenters and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Language Portal of Canada.
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