There's so much bad and mediocre translation out there. What do we do about it? Or doesn't it matter?

Post date: Sep 29, 2014 7:48:17 AM

Just because a translator has been working in a given industry for ten years, it doesn't mean that they have been translating to the highest standards for ten years. Far too many translators simply cruise along, meeting their customers' demands, without ever striving for excellence (or even thinking about striving for excellence).

We all know what I'm talking about: there is an across-the-board tendency to lapse into "translator-speak", and produce translations that look reasonable on the surface, but which, when examined more closely, are often lazy and tantalizingly not-quite-suitable for purpose. Many translators simply stick too close to the source language, and don't think enough about the final purpose of the text. If your target text is a piece of advertising copy, or a technical article, or any other type of "special purposes" text, it needs to stand on its own two feet and perform that function in its own right, without looking, or sounding (or smelling) like a translation. How many of us, hand on heart, can say we always achieve that?

I am, of course, aware of translation theories and techniques that call for a "non-fluent" approach to maintain a sense of cultural difference, among other things, but quite frankly many translators achieve "non-fluency" accidentally rather than deliberately, when that kind of approach is not appropriate.

There is simply too much disappointing translation out there. What are we, as individuals and collectively, going to do about it? Or doesn't it really matter, if the customer doesn't notice anyway?