Spanish English Translation, Interpreting and Language Consulting

Translation Equivalence

For anyone who is seeking translation services, I would recommend doing at least some brief research on what translation really involves.

It seems that prospective translation buyers mostly shop around for price, and from there make a choice based on the qualifications or track record of the providers within their price bracket.

But there is also another and entirely different kind of client: those who know and understand the service that they want, and then shop around for the right value within their service bracket.

Each approach has its place. There are things that all of us buy purely on price: they are called generics or commodities. When it comes to translation, we accept that budget offerings will be unsophisticated and literal.

On the other hand, if you have a message that is crafted, nuanced and targeted, its successful transferal necessarily invokes non-literal dimensions of language and culture. Things then become less a matter of budget, and more return on investment.

The following Wikipedia entry offers a useful overview of the concepts and decision making that confront real translators in every assignment – word by word, sentence by sentence, and page by page.

I have taken the liberty of reproducing a part of the Wikipedia entry below:

A competent translator is not only bilingual but bicultural. A language is not merely a collection of words and of rules of grammar and syntax for generating sentences, but also a vast interconnecting system of connotations and cultural references whose mastery, writes linguist Mario Pei, “comes close to being a lifetime job.”

The complexity of the translator’s task cannot be overstated; one author suggests that becoming an accomplished translator — after having already acquired a good basic knowledge of both languages and cultures — may require a minimum of ten years’ experience. Viewed in this light, it is a serious misconception to assume that a person who has fair fluency in two languages will, by virtue of that fact alone, be consistently competent to translate between them.

Clearly, achieving true “equivalence” for a designated application requires experience, finesse and judgment. Those are hardly generic commodities – an important distinction to bear in mind when discerning between price and value, and choosing a service provider.



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