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“Don’t worry about the quality”: the paradox

Once in a while, I have this and that client who will tell me, with a fair degree of certainty, “don’t worry about the quality.” This comment will usually come with a brush of the hand, and, almost as an afterthought, “just make sure it’s accurate”. And, thus, the paradox begins.

When faced with this request, I try to put myself in their shoes. Clearly, there is some degree of quality they aspire to. Otherwise, why not simply use Google Translate and get a free translation, if quality is no issue at all? Why pay for it? The problem, I’m sure, stems from a misconception of what quality really is.

Quality is merely defined as a ‘grade of excellence’, and people just assume that, in translation, it involves flourishing the words, using fancy terms, prettying up the phrases. This generalized misconception is what drives people to say that it “is not important”. They assume a translator will take their text and meddle with it to the point of making it convoluted, and (maybe even) obscure its essence.

However, quality can take many forms: it may involve embellishing the text so it reads better; avoiding the repetition of a given term or, conversely, preventing our restless hands from preferring a synonym; maintaining a character count to the specified amount; or, indeed, reformulating phrases so that the purpose becomes clearly stated. Additionally, texts are not cut from the same cloth, and quality will depend on the type of text, on the intended audience, and on the translation needed.

The quality paradox becomes a real issue for translators who repeat the same approach over and over again for all content, without ever considering context or the distinctiveness of each document. In our industry, there are no easy-fixes, and it is not quality that poses the problem, but superficial knowledge about the differentiators for each text.

So, the next time you look for a translation, think of Tech-Translator, where quality is not something you need to worry about… it’s a given.