How to tell if it’s a good translation

Not knowing a language and having the need to use it always gives me a feeling close to vertigo. The fantasy of traveling to exotic places is often ruined with questions like: How am I going to communicate? How am I going to understand the street signs or restaurant menus? How, if in the event that I need it, am I going to ask for help? How much am I going to miss out on by not understanding everything they tell me?

Excessive gesturing in the style of Italian caricatures has a true origin. In the Mediterranean – a center for travelers and merchants – inhabitants of the peninsula had to bridge the gap in communication using what they had at hand, such as their hands. Simple words such as “Five”, “There” or “Come!” translated into equivalent gestures that were broad and eloquent enough to be understood.

The bad thing about written communication is that those “seasonings” cannot be used to fulfill your objective. The good news is that, if done well, it will be accurate and difficult to misinterpret.
Now let’s go back to the “vertigo”. If I do not know the target language, how do I know if I have a good translation at hand?

That question is crucial, especially if this is the first work done by a particular agency for you. To know the basics of the language is not enough to evaluate it, nor does it serve to have someone review the translation who only knows the target language (see “Not everyone can be a translator“). The best thing to do is expose the entire translation or part thereof to any person who represents the ideal recipient of the message (A bank customer? Vacuum cleaner user? A computer scientist? A hotel employee? A school student?).

If this person fully understands in the target language what you wanted to stay in the original language, then have confidence: your message will be conveyed.

Spanish version: “Cómo saber si se trata una buena traducción