What makes a good translation?

Michael Frayn, discussing his translation of Chekhov in the Bulletin of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (Jan-Feb. 2003), wrote:

I really do believe the characters have to express themselves in absolute English otherwise it’s not really a translation. The point is that the original doesn’t sound quaint and odd and foreign to Russians, so it shouldn’t sound quaint and odd to English people.”

I am often asked to revise existing translations in which the original (source) language has “leaked” into the English, or “target” text – resulting in a hybrid of the two languages—within my language groupings often referred to as “Norglish”, “Swenglish” or “Danglish”, which is clearly undesirable. When performing translation, the aim is to produce an end product that reads perfectly in English and with no “leakage” of the source language its grammar or syntax into the translated text. Translations, in other words, which contain no evidence of their source-language origins.

Whether your translation is a large-scale, multiple-language project or a single-page document translation, the principles are the same: the highest possible quality and stringent checks for “naturalness and accuracy.

The Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) in the UK has produced an excellent guide for buyers of translation services, called “Getting it Right”, which provides useful advice about what the process involves, and the potential pitfalls of not choosing a professional. In the sub-tabs below this one, you will find links to the guide in various languages. If you have further questions of course, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Andy Bell