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Addendum to November 2016 
What Does Accuracy Mean in Translation?

At first glance this seems like an easy question to answer:
All words translated corrected.
Obviously that should be All words translated correctly.
Thanks to the readers who caught our error!

Like many other concepts, it's not that simple.

1. Translating word for word will result in a clunky sentence that may not convey the meaning properly. (See the accompanying article.)

2. Some languages are rich in synonyms and some fit the source document better than the others. Should a female be designated as a girl, damsel, young lady, broad, gal, lassie, woman, moll or matron? Each of these terms has an entire envelope of meaning and culture associated with it in English. It is the translator's job to pick the right synonym.

3. Language standards are fluid. Obscenity and slang terms fall in and out of use. What was appropriate last year may have taken on another meaning this year. Sometimes the target word equivalent to the source word is no longer proper for the context. The translator is embedded in the culture and aware of these issues.

4. Then there's the matter of style. A translation may be accurate and still not meet the style requirements of the client. Of course, we do our best to match the register-that is, the tone-of the original but there are different writing styles within the register and they may all be accurate.

Who has the final say about accuracy?

First and foremost our translations must please our clients.

Occasionally a client will give one of our translations to a friend who speaks the language but is neither a native speaker nor a trained linguist. We are happy to work through any changes requested, implementing those that are a matter of style and explaining why others may not be appropriate.

At Tembua, accuracy means:
all concepts moved from the source language to the target language in a style that sounds like the document was originally written in the target language and obeying all standards of grammar, syntax and orthography in that language.

We'd love to hear your take on this topic!

Client Spotlight:

Malco Products, Inc

. is the nation's leading manufacturer of "tools of the trade" for HVAC (Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning) professionals .
Tembua translates catalogues, instruction sheets and marketing materials into 25 languages for this global company! One of our Minnesota clients, they are an extremely pleasant customer!

Word for Word continued
Medical and dental insurance benefits in English translates to
beneficios de seguros médicos y dentales in Spanish, or benefits of insurances medical and dental. Meanwhile, in German, the verb migrates to the end of the sentence, and a negative particle that the author wants to emphasize moves closer to the end.

When you receive a translation from Tembua, the word order is proper for that language, as are the spelling, punctuation, and spacing around the punctuation.

We return translations bad not. That's word for word!

In This Issue
"I want word-for-word translation."
At Tembua, we often hear this request.
A client is trying to specify the most complete, accurate translation possible: nothing missing and nothing added.
However, word-for-word translation would not produce this result. Instead, it would mean looking up every source word in a bilingual dictionary and composing a sentence in the same order as the original but using the words of the target language.
One problem with this approach is the limitations of a dictionary. Verbs are listed as infinitives-to be, to drink, to run-and often without conjugations. Gerunds, imperatives, and participles are sometimes shown in the main dictionary entry, sometimes not. Nouns appear in their singular form, and it may be hard to find the plural, to say nothing of the proper articles in a language where nouns carry gender.

But the main problem with a word-for-word translation is word order. For instance, adjectives come before the noun in English, but in Romance languages, they sometimes come after. An example:
  • French: Le grand chien floue assis sur l'herbe vert tendre.
  • Word-for-word English translation: The large dog fuzzy sat on the grass green soft.
  • Proper English translation: The large fuzzy dog sat on the soft green grass.

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