Which translation methods should a company choose for its project?

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Before starting a translation project, it’s important to decide on an overall method. There are several approaches that a translator can take, and each one will produce a different end result. Which method is chosen will usually depend on the text type and how you intend to use your translation, with each method having their own benefits and disadvantages.

1. Literal Translation

A simple or literal translation is where a piece of writing is translated word for word, requiring the least amount of effort. However, this method will generally produce an awkward text that’s difficult to read, making it unsuitable for most texts.

2. Localization

In contrast to literal translation, localization takes into account everything about the target text. Focusing on the culture, tradition and history of the region, the content is adapted to suit its target audience. This method requires both a thorough knowledge of the language, as well as its cultural, economic and political backgrounds. From colors and imagery to units of measurement and number formatting, everything is adapted to suit the target reader.

For example, French uses a comma to mark a decimal point and a space to separate hundreds and thousands (10 000,50). Meanwhile, the English language uses a full stop to mark decimals and commas to separate hundreds and thousands (10,000.50). A localized text would adapt these numbers to suit the conventions of the target language.

3. Transcreation

Transcreation is an English neologism that combines ‘translation’ and ‘creation’. This translation method goes one step further than localization, focusing on the overall emotion and meaning of the text rather than the individual words. The source content is used as inspiration to create an original piece of content adapted to your target audience and culture.

Transcreation can be applied in a variety of situations, especially marketing. For example, when entering a new market, transcreation is used to create slogans that resonate with the target audience in the same way they did with the original audience.

4. Machine Translation

Machine translation (MT) is when content is translated purely by a computer program. With constant technological advances, there are now a number of programs readily available which can easily provide you with the overall gist of the document.

However, machine translation doesn’t guarantee quality and often results in a literal translation.  Since literal translations are typically awkward and can cause a loss of nuance or meaning, the best option is to have human translators post edit the translation. Known as post-editing machine translation (PEMT), this delivers faster results than traditional human translation, while giving you better quality than MT.

5. Computer-Assisted Translation

Computer-assisted translation (CAT) software is different to MT in that it uses translation memories created by human translators. As the translator works through the source text, any previously translated segments that match the new content will be identified. The translator can then accept, reject or amend the suggestion based on their judgement. This is especially useful in keeping terminology consistent throughout a project.

6. Transliteration

This involves transferring text from one language’s writing system into another. Although this isn’t really considered as a form of translation, it’s useful for showing the pronunciation of words and names from another language. When converting non-Latin writing systems into Latin script, this process is called Romanization.

There are several official standards to follow for the transliteration and Romanization of various writing systems. This includes ISO 9 for the transliteration of Russian and other languages that use Cyrillic characters, and hanyu pinyin for the Romanization of Mandarin.

It’s also important not to confuse transliteration and transcription. While transliteration deals with written texts, transcription is the process of converting spoken language into writing. Since the transcription follows the rules of the target language, the results will differ. For example, Шостакович can be written as ‘Shostakovich’ in English or ‘Szostakowicz’ in Polish, despite the source audio being the same.

Quality translations by professionals, for professionals

At Intertranslations, we offer our clients a range of translation methods suitable for a wide variety of projects. While MT might be fine with a simple text for internal use, human translation will deliver the best results for a complicated document due to be published.

From transcreation and machine translation, to human and computer-assisted translations, we have a team of professional translators on hand and ready to help. Based on your needs, our translation agency will find the right method for your translation and deliver the most effective results.

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