Summary

What you should
know

  • Translation is an empathetic, creative and – at its core – human task.
  • It can be supported by technology, but we are far from the days when humans can be completely replaced by machines.
  • Expert translators are professionals in correctly transferring the content from not only one language to another, but also from one cultural context to another.
  • Depending on whether the text to be translated is more factual and technical or contains more cultural elements, a distinction is made between technical translations and adaptations.

Term definition

Translation is like stepping into another cultural space

Translation means taking a written text from the source language and transferring it to the target language – without distorting the original meaning.

This may sound trivial, but it means that translators are faced with two challenges:

they must understand every nuance of the source text in order to accurately recreate the meaning in the target text.

And they have to be familiar with the target readers, so the message is understood in exactly the manner intended.

That means that translation is an empathetic task. It requires a certain sensitivity, experience and skills in at least two languages and cultures.

The mother of all translations: the mother tongue

Can it be learned? Yes and no. Of course, there are some linguistically talented people who are able to speak five, six or seven foreign languages – including more than a few of our employees. And every one of our professional translators have undergone a challenging selection and training process. Additionally, a university degree in linguistics as well as specialisation in a particular subject area are the rule.

Nevertheless, even language experts can truly master only their mother tongue. And because the most important factor is the result – that is, the target text – we adhere to the native speaker principle at Wieners+Wieners. As a rule, our technical translators only translate texts into their own native language.

This fundamental rule is especially important for the more creative translation projects. Take advertising slogans, for example: they require more than merely translation; to a certain extent, they have to be created anew. Understanding the nuance, wordplay and humour is essential. Native speakers simply have a feel for it,

which means that translation is also a creative task.

But is that always the case? What about texts – annual reports, for example – that require largely predetermined terminology?

Straight talk in more than 90 languages.

Regardless of which language you are looking for, we are sure to find the right words.

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All roads lead to Rome – and on every one you’ll come across people

Essentially, we make a distinction between two types of translations:

  • Technical translations: common in the technical and legal fields. Here, it is all about the precision of terminology – and, accordingly, a translator that has sound knowledge of the subject area.
  • Accurate and true-to-style adaptations: We also talk about transcreations, which require a great deal of linguistic finesse. The goal is to still get the right message across, even if a direct translation doesn’t work – for instance because terms might not exist in the target language.

But every task is different, of course. This also is why we do not calculate our quotations exclusively on the basis of the amount of text using a simple price calculator.

We value the conversation with the customer so that we can work together to determine the best path. In the end, it saves nerves, time and therefore money.

We are often asked, for translations from German to English and vice versa in particular, whether a machine translation would be sufficient. Our response is generally as follows:

translation is still, at its core, a human task.

But this certainly does not mean that we turn away from technological aids altogether. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Translations are complex projects that need to be managed – thank goodness for digitisation

The more comprehensive the translation project, the more important it is that, in addition to the content, the workflows are also spot on in two respects: on the one hand, communication between the language service provider and the customer has to be smooth. On the other hand, the translation process itself has to be well structured. Digital tools can help us with both aspects.

For instance, if multiple translators are working for a customer or if different parts of a project are underway at different times, the corporate wording still has to remain consistent throughout. This is where what we refer to as digital translation management comes in, in the form of so-called computer-aided translation (CAT) tools. These tools feature:

  • Translation memory systems for storing, reusing and updating translations that already exist
  • Terminology databases as digital glossaries for the uniform use of predefined terms with their corresponding translations

So that nothing gets lost on the road from translated text to finished end product – a website, for instance – we use additional digital solutions for CMS integration. This enables us to use connectors to directly and automatically export texts, and then to import them back into your system after they have been successfully translated.

To make the invoicing process a breeze, we also have our customer portal, where all those involved in a project can see current and finished orders as well as budgets and invoices.

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Lost in translation

Translation, adaptation, localisation – what is the difference?

Would you like to offer your products or services on various international markets? We offer adaptations in particular for projects in the field of intercultural marketing. You might also hear the term transcreation, a new word made up of translation and creation,

because this type of translation requires an additional level of creativity.

Wordplay in German generally doesn’t work when literally translated into French. Humour is also a very individual topic that depends on the language.

So we have to get creative to adapt the text in such a way that the message and the core concept correspond to the original in style and tone, yet also fit within the cultural aspects of the target country.

Adaptations are not limited to marketing communication such as slogans. Technical texts, banners and website texts also have to match their target market. This is the only way to ensure that you make a professional impression on your international customers.

It is clear that not every translation agency can offer this service. True transcreators have to be capable of navigating the cultural and linguistic nuances of both the source text and the target text. They are both excellent translators as well as creative copywriters, which makes them extremely rare.

But it should also be clear that not every project calls for transcreation. And it may not be possible at all in some cases. Advertising campaigns in particular often make reference to collective experiences or cultural codes in the country of origin that are entirely unfamiliar in the target country of the translation. In this case, we recommend considering creating entirely new content for the target group in the target market rather than adapting the existing content.

A broad(er) field for our experts: localisation

You want to ensure that your message is not only understood in a certain target country, but is also accepted and trusted there? Then you should know the difference between ‘translation’ and ‘localisation’.

Simply put, we transfer the original text into the target language when translating. For localisation – we also refer to it as a localisation process – we take it significantly further. There can be completely different preferences and customs in two countries that share a language, so it makes a difference whether we localise a text in Spanish for Mexico or Spanish for Spain.

Pictures can have a different impact depending on the regional context. The same goes for expressions and figures of speech. Functional features such as telephone numbers, time and date formats and measurements and currencies may also require consideration.

Our native speakers ensure that such seemingly trivial aspects are taken into consideration, because you could quickly be dealing with legal requirements when it comes to formal aspects. And that can be expensive.

So knowing what localisation means and when it is necessary is certainly worthwhile. As previously mentioned, however, we are the experts in that regard and are happy to advise you!

Human over machine

Why human translations are still more intelligent

Today, translation tools can be used to generate translations in a number of languages with just the click of a button. When speed is of the essence, this can be particularly tempting as well as often free of charge. And, at first glance, the results might not seem all that bad. But can you really rest assured that the translation is correct, both in terms of content as well as grammar?

Let’s take a look at how reliable the free online tools really are.

It was not long ago that results from translation tools looked something like this:

Such program of fully automatic translation are really useful.

Thanks to artificial intelligence, the quality of translations from translation tools have improved significantly since then.

So why do you still need the professional translation services of a translation agency? Are the results of machine translation good enough for your purposes?

For casual conversation with colleagues around the world, Google Translate and DeepL are quite convenient and efficient. But the quality of translations is a different topic entirely: within the context of marketing projects, for example, which demand unique content of the utmost quality.

Let’s take a look at the following German example:

Unsere Übersetzer verfügen nämlich zudem über Doppelqualifikationen. Ihre Website für Motorenkonstruktion würden wir beispielsweise von einem diplomierten Übersetzer, der gleichzeitig Diplom-Ingenieur ist, übersetzen lassen. Denn für einen solchen Spezialisten bleiben weder sprachlich noch inhaltlich Fragen offen.

What does Google Translate give us for this text in English?

Our translators also have dual qualifications. For example, we would have your engine design website translated by a qualified translator who is also a qualified engineer. For such a specialist, neither linguistic nor content-related questions remain unanswered.

The quality is not bad at first glance. The sentence structure and grammar are correct, but overall it sounds a bit stilted and dry.

And what does DeepL have to offer?

Our translators also have dual qualifications. For example, we would have your engine design website translated by a qualified translator who is also a qualified engineer. Because for such a specialist, there are no questions left unanswered, either in terms of language or content.

Here, aside from some slight variation in the last sentence, the results are identical to Google Translate; the last sentence contains some dubious work with punctuation and needs a general overhaul in terms of style. But the last sentence mentions questions being left unanswered by the specialist.

Neither Google Translate nor DeepL truly ‘understood’ the German saying of ‘es bleiben keine Fragen offen’. The overall meaning of this particular group of individual words was not recognised by either translation tool; they merely translated word for word.

‘Es bleiben keine Fragen offen’ means that all criteria are met, or ‘all the boxes are ticked’.

This example demonstrates that translation tools like DeepL and Google Translate simply are not (yet) reliable enough when it comes to delivering texts in multiple languages without errors and perfectly adapted for the respective target group.

Decisions

Which type of translation for which text?

Machine translations are often sufficient for quickly understanding texts or spoken words as part of informal conversations among colleagues. Especially when the focus is more on the connections. However, even though artificial intelligence is improving on a daily basis, machine translations are still nowhere near the quality of a human-generated translation.

Thanks to their acquired knowledge in the respective subject area as well as in their language, human translators recognise the overall meaning of ‘fixed’ groups of words. This makes them able to translate the content of your document into their native language and to adapt it in line with cultural factors. Translation tools would only be able to generate such transcreations if they had access to data that ‘taught’ them the respectively necessary understanding of meaning.

In the marketing sector in particular, where wordplay and current linguistic trends lead to intentional deviations from the standards, translation tools are pushed beyond their limitations.

By the way, the German example text described above was translated by our expert marketing translators as follows:

Our translators are also doubly qualified. Your engine construction website, for instance, would be translated by someone who is an accredited translator who also has a diploma in engineering. Such a specialist would not only tick all the linguistic boxes, but the subject matter ones, too!

At a glance

Five ways to recognise a quality translation

The contents are there
It might sound banal, but it is not a matter of course. A high-quality translation is true to the original text. It conveys the message – adding nothing and leaving nothing out.

The spelling is correct
A good translation complies with the rules of spelling and grammar – for the target language, no less. Sentence structure and punctuation are correct. Country-specific conventions are adhered to, for example with regard to spaces, quotation marks and decimals.

The terminology is right
Good translators are not only linguistic talents, but also experts in their respective subject area. They know the relevant technical terminology and use it consistently. Well-thought-out terminology management can help in this regard.

Tailored communication with the target group
A good translation is adapted to the existing technical knowledge and the cultural background of the recipients. An advertising text, for example, not only needs to be translated (e.g. into Spanish), but also needs to be adapted to the respective (e.g. Mexican) market.

The style is not lost
Creative texts in particular often have their own ‘sound’. This is difficult to imitate and even more difficult to translate into another language. Finding a style that is authentic and can stand on its own, all without distorting the content of the original text, is perhaps the greatest challenge for translators.

With all that in tow, a quality result is not far behind. In the end, we always use the following rule of thumb as a sort of ultimate quality check: 

a good translation doesn’t sound like a good translation – it sounds like a well-written text.