Sharing your personal and professional experiences with others seems to be a good idea. And it usually is. But the moment you say what you do, you often hear:
“Ah, translation. Our assistant does it”.
Or worse: “Localization? What is it? Ah, you mean translation? We have a guy for it.”
or “That’s interesting what you’re saying, but I thought it’s just translation – anyone can do it”.
Sounds familiar? It does to me. And I think it's time to straighten the most common mistaken beliefs out.
No, not really. Translation is not just exchanging one word for another. Expertise and experience in professional translation for a given vertical is everything. You should know what and how to say, what you need to say in the target language.
Remembering the important part of the target language: the target culture, to make sure, the way you say things complies with the rules, not only in the linguistic sense, but also social one. You should be an expert on terminology in a given vertical (like technical translation and so on) and also in the processes, tools and technology. This is what professional translation demands nowadays.
Many people do, yes. But to say that it is everyone is an overstatement. English doesn’t even have the most users in the world. Neither is it the main online language, as it’s just one of the 13 languages that allow you to reach 90% of the world online, namely Arabic, Chinese (Simplified), Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish. Plus other important languages, e.g. Central Eastern European ones, including Polish, Czech, Slovak, Russian, Hungarian, Romanian, Bulgarian and more.
But wait, have you asked your potential clients if Google Translate really does the same job?
Because it doesn’t. First of all, it’s not meant for professional content translation, the creation of which costed a lot. It’s incomparable to what professional human translators do. Apart from the legal implications of a non-disclosure nature, you need to answer one question:
Do you want to look and sound like an amateur or a professional?
As much as everyone in any industry sees the great role of quality checking, when it comes to the same stage in translation, suddenly it’s hard to see how important it is. You test your product content before publishing it online to make sure it works well? You test your latest software to make sure there are no bugs? So you can imagine what would happen if you didn’t. Now imagine what happens when you publish the work of a translator without another linguist with the industry expertise checking it. And last but not least, there may be more quality assurance stages involved. The process is not as simple as it seems. Check out ISO 17100: 2015 standard.
While your product quality does speak for itself, the content doesn't. This needs to be created in the specific target languages to make your buyers know what they're reading, listening or watching. Or using, for that matter. Check any of the Fortune 500 companies - they use translation and localization services for their websites, product contents and any content they see as necessary to publish worldwide.
Most of those mistakes in how people perceive translation, seem to stem from one important factor: translation services are intangible. As such, they are viewed as something of low value, sometimes even considered not to be worth spending money on as they should be free. But PR or marketing services are also intangible and people are ready to spend millions on them each year. Sound for example, or music itself, they are intangible and yet we approach them in a fully professional way.
There's no music without sound, right?
Now imagine translation is the sound of your product's content…