|Section 1: Translation Involves More Than Words
Therein lies the challenge: every language is a unique, purposeful set of visual, auditory or tactilesymbols of communication, expressing underlying cultural practices, values and beliefs. The conventions and text elements (e.g., title, tone, voice) for each language are dictated by cultural norms associated with the underlying communicative purpose. Translators need to take into account the rules of grammar, writing conventions and idioms or forms of expression typical to each language while recreating intended meaning in a source text. The translation process involves creating a new text in a target language by interpreting the meaning of information found in a source text. The objective is to communicate the same information or “the closest natural equivalent of the source language message, firstly with respect to meaning and secondly with respect to style” (Nida, 1959, p. 11).
Requesters hold the key to quality translations that are useful to patients when they understand the translation process and actively work to orient translators to the purpose and use of a source text. Even well trained translators, those with subject knowledge similar to those of the source text’s author and advanced language and writing skills, can also be a source of poor-quality translations when they lack full comprehension of how text is used—the communicative purpose it was designed to achieve and how a target reader encounters the text. With a detailed understanding of the purpose and use of a source text and specific instructions to guide translator decisions in navigating language and cultural differences, skilled translators can recreate intended meaning.
In the end, requesters cannot delegate their responsibility to convey health information across language and culture to translators removed from these communicative events. Although in many cases translation vendors can relieve the burden of requesters working in unfamiliar territory, our work has shown quality results are not consistent from text to text despite elaborate review processes. Requesters need to provide written instructions to convey a detailed understanding about how a source text is used and its communicative purpose, to guide translators in re-creating or approximating intended meaning correctly. In this way, requesters and translators can work together to improve translation quality.