Lost in Translation- vague or verbatim?

Translation has a myriad of applications. You can have translators that work exclusively in particular fields, translators with specialist knowledge about a particular subject or translators that work within one company but do a little bit of everything. In any of these cases, understanding the context in which a translation is being done is imperative to its success.

With some things, there may be more of a focus of just getting the message across in a way that’s easily consumable for the target audience, whereas in other situations there is simply no room for error. Take a social media post for example. Many social media users or influencers today tend to use a casual and approachable tone with their followers. The person publishing the post may have a global audience and therefore tends to use two or three languages in their captions. In their mother tongue, they may use colloquialisms, idioms or slang that cannot be directly translated to another language. In this context, they would likely use a phrase with similar meaning in the target languages or use another term to evoke the same response in their audience. This is an example of the general message taking priority over exact word usage.

Now let’s look at the example of a contract. Two companies from different countries are entering a business deal together. When drawing up the terms and conditions of this deal, it is absolutely crucial that both sides are completely clear on what they are entering into and the exact stipulations of the agreement. Loose or inaccurate translations of contracts and paperwork could lead to lawsuits, financial losses and potentially irreparable damage to one or both of the companies. A certain level of pedantry is required, to make sure that the appropriate language is used and that there is no misunderstanding between the two companies- thus ensuring that nothing gets ‘lost in translation’.

The ability to correctly discern when to prioritise gist over precision is a key skill of a translator however, it is also a translator’s duty to stay loyal to the original text. This means that a translator must be very familiar and flexible with their language and able to adapt it to the context, when necessary.

Here at BBLTranslation, we work with translators who are specialist experts in their respective fields in order to provide the most accurate and professional translations, as well as native translators who are able to give cultural context and ensure that all our translations will be appropriate and well-received in any language. Ask us for a no-obligation quote for your translation needs, and we would be more than happy to deal with your request.

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