I have been busy editing an online magazine and have had little time for translation work over the past week or so. Nevertheless, I continue to post translations of poetry and literature to the wordpress blog: http://menemenetekel.wordpress.com
As a self-employed person I am always looking at resources on the internet and, as a translator and writer, my eyes are always open to the quality of writing and translation around me. The Principality of Asturias has done a great deal to improve the quality of the English on the shadow website in English it offers. Three years ago it was a poor thing that had been passed through a machine translator and looked over by some overworked functionary with notional English.
The obvious solution is to get all your translation work vetted by a native speaker. This need not be expensive. I, for example, will offer a free estimate on time and cost for proofreading a website. The overall cost for a small website could be less than €100, which one would think would be a small price to pay for not looking ridiculous in the international market.
However, this is not foolproof. Look around you. How many of your compatriots would you trust to write a business report for you? And do you really think that someone working for a big translation agency is capable of taking on that responsibility. The chances are that they do not even write well in their own language. If you want quality, you have to look for it.
You will also have to pay for it. Don't think you are smart going to one of the big online agencies where the freelancers bid against each other pushing the price so low that they can only do a rush job to make any money. In the world of translation you really do get what you pay for. If you want a high school graduate with moderate skills working out of his bedroom in Ohio then go online and look for the best deal. If you want something better, check out other quality indicators: level of education, experience and age.
The Principality of Asturias webpage is a good example of a fair piece of work that could do with some careful proofreading and revision. Here are a couple of examples:
Attention for citizens: this phrase is the literal translation of atención al ciudadano. I can understand it, but it does not really exist in either the UK or the USA. You can check this for yourself. If you put Attention for Citizens into Google the first site that comes up is the Principality of Asturias. This is a good indicator that the phrase is not common in native English. It is not common for a very good reason: attention has a sexual double entendre and a military meaning as in 'standing to attention'. It is not a good choice in this context.
Another example is the misplaced article. In English we use the definite article much less frequently than in Castellano. It is easy for a careless translator to let this slip, particularly if he is working to a tight schedule in an office or has put in a low bid for a large contract.
What does it matter if the text can be understood?
Perhaps it doesn't matter. Perhaps it is OK for people to go around sniggering about the things they find translated on webpages, in tourist information and in official documentation. Perhaps. But I tend to agree with my grandfather who used to say, "If a job's worth doing, it's worth doing properly".