OVERSYS - French technical translations


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O V E R S Y S fr

technical translation * Montpellier, France

How To Select a Translation Service

You are faced with a critical decision: how to choose a translation service that meets all your needs. Moreover, you don't speak a word of the language in question. A mistake here can have ruinous consequences for your business.

An example: When Chevrolet introduced the Nova to the South American market, sales were dismal. And they remained in the cellar until someone finally pointed out that "no va" in Spanish means "it won't go"! The car was renamed and sales took off. GM recovered from the blunder, but--could you?

When selecting a translator, consider the following points:
  • They translate into their native tongue.
  • They are specialized in your field.
  • They fully understand your text.
  • They have substantial experience
The first point is only too obvious! We translate from a language we understand well, into one we understand intuitively. And while there may be some fine scholars who are able to translate into a foreign tongue, even they will probably admit it is not the optimum situation. This raises the question: In order to get "native speakers", must I deal with a company in a foreign country? The answer is "yes and no", or "maybe", depending on the nature of your text. If you require a basically literary translation which uses the language of yesteryear, then you will be well served by a local translation service which uses expatriate native speakers.

However, if your text is technical in any field which is undergoing rapid change, it is strongly advised that you seek out a service in the country for which your message is intended. A computer will translate one word with another word, but a professional translator will translate words for words, phrases for phrases, idiomatic expressions for idiomatic expressions, and concepts for concepts. Much of this knowledge is not written down in dictionaries (at least not until years later). This knowledge is obtained only by total continuous immersion in the culture of the target country and the evolution of the technology.

As a final example of why we require native speakers for our translations, let us consider an example of machine translation, using AltaVista's Babelfish translator.

Our text will be the first sentence of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address:
"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

Do an English to French translation in Babelfish, and the result looks great--if you don't speak French:
"Quatre points et il y a sept ans nos pères ont apporté sur ce continent une nouvelle nation conçue dans la liberté et consacrée à la proposition que tous les hommes sont égale créée."

Now use Babelfish again to reverse the translation, and problems emerge:
"Four points and there are seven years our fathers brought on this continent a new nation conceived in the freedom and devoted to the proposal that all the men equal are created."

Looks like this program is more "Babel" than "fish"... It has totally messed up the "Four score and seven" part, and dropped the "forth". The rest of the sentence is somewhat recognizeable--although it has a rather Bulgarian flavor now.