Assessment of Needs
in Foreign Language Translation

Foreign language translation or interpreting?

Back in my days as a member of the American Translators Association, I received phone calls from U.S. citizens asking to provide translation for them in Ukraine (where I have lived). At first, I was surprised. After all, there in no need to look for a translator abroad if you have plenty of translators in your country. Then I found out that people were looking for a language interpreter to assist them during their trips to my country. Why did they contact me, a translator, if they needed an interpreter? Perhaps, because they did not realize the difference between translation and interpreting. So what's the difference?

Foreign language translation, source text, target text

- Translation is a process of written transfer of verbal signs between languages. Simply put, it is the replacement of a text in one language (source language) by its equivalent in the other language (target language).

- Interpreting is the conversion of a speaker's ideas from one language into another. Interpreting helps in the process of oral cross-language communication.

Not all translators take on interpreting assignments, and not all interpreters work also as translators.

To translate or not to translate?

In these economic times, increasing budgetary constraints bring this question to the fore. The answer depends on the purpose of the foreign language translation:

Purpose Solution
To give (or get) the general idea of a document - Consider producing a shorter text for translation. Decide which information is actually required and translate only such information. Use word-free images, diagrams, and maps where possible.

- Consider using machine translation. It provides the rough translation of texts to get the gist of them. For this purpose, language translation software is used.

- Try a do-it-yourself approach. It may work well if you understand a target language because you have learned it or spent a lot of time in the country where it is spoken. Dictionaries will help to accomplish the task.
To inform. You want to get (or provide) clear and complete information Translation of the "for-information" quality. For example, it is good for personal letters and for official documents with limited circulation. Foreign language translation of the "for-information" quality is accurate; however, the style of it may be unpolished and the vocabulary not perfect. It may have minor mistakes in syntax and punctuation.

Consider an option to translate into one language instead of several. For example, Russian was a language common to all Former Soviet Union (FSU) republics for 70 years. It is still understood and spoken in these territories. If the FSU is your target market, translate text only into Russian instead of translating into Russian plus languages of the FSU republics. If you are not sure into which language your document should be translated, a map of languages of the world can help you to make the right choice.

Who can provide this translation quality:
Professional translators, translation students, foreign language teachers.

To advertise, to sell. Cases when your corporate image or legal liability is a top priority Translation of the "for-publication" quality. This category includes, inter alia, web site translation, translation of user manuals, clinical study protocols, sales brochures, voice-overs, contracts and financial reports.

As a rule, foreign language translation of the "for-publication" quality is natural-sounding, free of objective errors and mistranslations. It is characterized by appropriate word choices and good vocabulary.

Furthermore, it is culturally appropriate for the foreign community being served because such translation is a means not only of linguistic communication, but of cross cultural communication too.

Respecting the culture of your foreign audience or business partner is of paramount importance. Culture Briefings can provide you in-depth information about culture and customs of people in other countries.

Who can provide this translation quality:
You need an experienced professional translator to perform this type of foreign language translation tasks. You can use translation services of your in-house translator, hire freelance foreign language translators directly, or outsource the translation project to translation companies.

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_____________________________________________________________________ Website owner: Irina Lychak, self-employed freelance linguist, Russian translator, Ukrainian translator, Kiev (Kyiv), Ukraine

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