One of the first questions that any translator worth their salt will ask you is this: who and what is your translation for? This seemingly simple question has a sizeable impact on the way that a translator approaches a text. For instance, a speech to a group of factory workers will entail a different style, word choice and sentence length to a highly technical report to be read by industry leaders. Likewise, an internal document that will be seen by two people demands a different approach to a glossy annual report that will be read by hundreds of investors and be picked up by international media outlets.
The purpose of your translation is also important. Translations can be broadly divided into two categories: “for information” and “for publication”. Texts for informational purposes can be translated in a way that is accurate, but the final version will likely be unpolished. These translations generally take less time and cost less. By contrast, “for publication” work is the best choice when your document will be read by a lot of people and when your image is at stake. These translations are usually reviewed by a second set of eyes and involve more time and a bigger budget. But it’s worth remembering that this cost is small when compared with the potential harm that a bad translation can cause to your sales, bottom line and reputation.
Next month we’ll continue in the series with a hot topic in the world of translation: Google Translate – Friend or Foe?