The importance of being “A”

In blog il


A – is for “adaptation”. It’s obvious if you think about it, but people are still sometimes surprised that what is common and convincing in one language can sound stilted or downright odd when translated literally into another language. Just try wishing someone “Good appetite” before starting a meal, inspired by “Bon appétit” in French. It doesn’t really work, does it? People get the message, but it’s not normal usage in English, and indeed no equivalent phrase exists. (Readers of a philosophical turn of mind may ponder why that is the case – is it because the English value food less than some other nations/cultures? Having said that, we are now getting used to a peremptory “Enjoy” from restaurant waiters, so maybe things are changing…)
But it’s not just about words and phrases. Imagine a press release produced by a renewable energy provider that says the capacity of a new wind farm is enough to meet the energy needs of a “city the size of Coventry”. Readers of the translation may never have heard of Coventry, and even if they have, they are unlikely to know the number of inhabitants. Clearly, it will make more sense in the translation to talk about “a city of around 320,000 inhabitants” – which requires the translator to do some online research.
So adaptation means taking account of the characteristics of the target language (i.e.the language into which the text is being translated) and also aiming to make the information contained in the original document relevant and meaningful to the reader of the translation.
At Amity Translations, in addition to applying a two-stage process of translation and revision, the final translation is also read in isolation to ensure it will ring true to the target audience and be as relevant as possible. As someone famously said, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, so we think the effort is necessary and will be rewarded.
In fairness, though, if you have just invented a cure for baldness you can probably get away with rubbishy translations of your marketing materials as long as you have a good pair of “before” and “after” pictures, but you would still have to remember that people in some countries read from left to right, so they might assume your produce is designed for radical hair removal if they see the “after” picture first…J