No DIY Translation, Please!

If you have a tight budget, it may seem like an idea to do the bulk of the translation yourself and then pass it on to a professional translator who will quickly fix it for you, doesn’t it? Well, you couldn’t be further from the truth! This really is a false economy. In fact, you’re not going to save a penny by doing this because the poor translator will spend just as long on this as if they did it right first time.

During the translation process, the trained linguist gets in the bilingual zone (indeed, they pretty much live there) and the words of the other language come up fairly smoothly. When correcting your “translation”, the translator has to go back and forth over your sentences to try and put it right, as well as back and forth between the original text and your version. The brain gets confused, as if trying to navigate two roads simultaneously. Again and again the brain stalls, goes back, and forth, and back, loses its sense of direction, starts doubting really obvious things… In a nutshell, the linguist can’t think straight and it quickly turns into a nightmare.

The errors and the clumsy wording are distractions, constant hick-ups that keep side-tracking the process. Imagine you are trying to talk and someone keeps interrupting you with irrelevant suggestions. It slows you down, you struggle to concentrate, you lose your train of thought each time. In the end, it takes you twice as long to express your message, and you’re not even sure you formulated it properly. The only thing you are certain about is that you’re left with a headache.

If you’re not a translator, please don’t attempt to do it yourself. For a smooth and efficient process and result, let the translator do it once and do it right. It’s their job.

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2 thoughts on “No DIY Translation, Please!

  1. Karine, This is the best description ever of why it’s so much worse trying to correct an amateur translation than starting over from scratch. I’ve tried to think of how to explain it to people, but never succeeded. Your analogies of trying to navigate two roads at the same time or of having someone interrupt you all the time while you’re trying to say something are exactly what it feels like. It’s not just twice as hard as translating from scratch: it’s three times as hard. Why? Because a three-way conversation is going on that jumbles up everything. If I (person A), am translating something written by an author (person B), I’m having a conversation just with that person, nice and straightforward. But if I have to correct someone else’s translation (person C), there are three conversations going on at the same time: between me and the author (A-B), between the author and the other “translator” (B-C), and between me and the other “translator”(C-A). It’s hard to think straight in such a cacophony!

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