Of all the large American cities, Oakland CA enjoys the most balanced diversity across racial lines. White, Black, Latino and Asian all comprise between 15 and 23% of the overall population, with “Other” filling in the last few points. Of course, such a single designation point does not accurately reflect the full context of the label. There are 50 countries in Asia, 54 countries in Africa and 20 international countries that use Spanish as their national language. Each country has its own national language and within that language are hundreds of different dialects. The world is a cacophony of diverse languages. Access to accurate translation services is imperative for any business or industry seeking to do business with all its neighbors, regardless of their ethnic background.
To be clear, ‘translating’ is not the same as ‘interpreting’. ‘Translation’ refers to written documents, while ‘interpretation’ refers to the spoken word. In both instances, the goal is to convey with true fidelity the meaning of the original text to the minds of the target readers.
Translating any language into another requires mores than just understanding the words being written. Many cultures have words, phrases and idioms that simply do not translate straight across into any other language. Additionally, all languages have formal and informal nuances, dialects and vocabularies. Accurate translation requires the ability to move back and forth between the languages and select verbiage that most closely allies with the original piece. The key skills of a translator are to understand the source language and to use their knowledge of the target country’s cultural and language norms to create an effectively translated product.
The accuracy of the message being conveyed from the original language to the target language is critical. The United Nations (UN) Assembly uses translators in all of its activities, as every speech, communication and document is translated into the each of the six official UN languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.) Here, translators have the opportunity to ensure the message being conveyed is accurately produced before it is submitted into the formal record. To do so, the translators use software programming, specialized dictionaries, glossaries. databases and internet research to ensure they have properly captured the full nuance of the document in the target language. (UN ‘spoken word’ interpreters, on the other hand, translate “on the fly” and can enter inaccurate or erroneous information in the immediacy of that process.) Obviously, miscommunications at the UN level of global affairs could have a disastrous effect on global relations, so accurate translation of each document and speech is critical to world communications.
Just like the UN, translation of legal, medical, financial and marketing documents requires linguistic accuracy that conveys the full complexity of the materials to the target reader. More and more these days, translations are required at local community levels as diverse cultures try to live together while maintaining their individual cultural heritages. In the legal world, the American Bar Association (ABA) recommends that attorneys seeking quality translation services look for these factors:
- Experience in the target language – a native speaker or someone who has lived in the culture;
- Qualified references – clients often aren’t good resources for this because of their limited knowledge of the target or source language. A quality translation service should have references available from peer-level past clients;
- Skills that match the topic – medically trained translators will do better translating medical documents than legal documents.
The ABA cautions that choosing a qualified and quality translator is a significant decision because, ultimately, the reputation of the professional is what will be conveyed to the target reader. It is important to get that right.
The ABA advice is appropriate for any professional seeking translation services. In Oakland, the diversity of the population indicates that translators may be necessary more often than might be thought. For any Oakland or surrounding area business needing quality, accurate translation to and from English into any other language, contact us today.