Readers of this blog may already know that being bilingual not necessarily makes one a good translator, but I will emphasize this: Bilingual people may not have the skills to properly perform a translation that conveys the right meaning, nuances and word equivalency in the target language. And, why is this?, you may ask yourselves; well because to be a good translator one has to be also a good writer, have full command of both languages (source and target) regarding appropriateness for grammar, spelling, and syntax, and have knowledge of the audience’s cultural background. I have come across many situations that confirm this claim, but I also have had my own experiences and I would like to share them here.
Recently unpacked from Mexico, I needed to have my academic credentials translated and, in order to avoid conflicts of interest regarding the translation, I turned to the first “Mom and Pop” business I could find in Las Vegas. They claimed to do translations from Spanish into English, and good ones, so I thought I would receive a well done job. To my surprise, the translation was the worst I have ever seen. They have translated terms like “law” as “right” (Law as several courses I had taken in College), the transcripts, which were several, had been teared and had marks of coffee mugs on top! I found that outrageous and demanded to have a correct and proper translation. At the end, after realizing they had no idea of what a translation should be, I just threw my hands up in the air and paid them for the service. I knew I could not use those translations, so I took the task of finding a professional translator and, of course, I had to pay again –that was money well spent. My best resource was the American Translators Association (ATA) online database of translators and interpreters, where I was able to find a colleague based in Las Vegas who did an excellent job and really knew exactly what I needed.
The ATA offers many information on how to get a good translator and prevent being the victim of someone who claims being one. ATA’s online publications section offers a very good guide, written by Chris Durban, called “Translation: Getting it Right,” and contains very specific pieces of information that can help people in obtaining professionally done work.
Let us remember that we have to do our homework and educate ourselves when it comes to have something translated – it will save us a big hassle.