Well, let’s get down to basics! What is translation? The answer may not be as obvious as it first appears.

It is generally agreed that the purpose of translation is to convey in medium 2 (the target language), a message originally conveyed in medium 1 (the perhaps radically different source language).

To begin with, the source material should be well written. Poor source material will usually lead to poor target material. As they say in IT, GIGO. For this reason, it may be worth editing, or at least proofreading, your source material before sending it out to a translator. Furthermore, if you take the opportunity to delete unnecessary sections or replace them with charts or graphs, you could actually save a lot of money!

The translator must first of all have a full grasp of the source material: not just the words, but also the tone, level of language, background in which the material has been produced, cultural references, jokes, wordplay, etc. 

The translator’s second job, and this is far more complicated, is to convey and render ALL the above-mentioned elements as if they had been originally written in the target language. This requires a thorough mastery of the target language.

This is why it is generally acknowledged that a translator MUST be a native speaker of the target language, living in a target language–speaking country. Merely being “bilingual” is not enough. Moreover, very good knowledge of the field to which the material to be translated relates is ESSENTIAL.

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