From Acceptable to Exceptional
During my career as a professional translator for 12 years, I have always told people “Translation takes more than someone that speaks two languages”. I guess it’s not loud enough to be heard by all. While there is acceptable Chinese translation of advertisement, newsletters, webpages, brochures, flyers and so on, exceptional pieces are seldom seen. And that impression is usually made after I read the Chinese translation only.
As a translator, I can tell what the original would read in most of the cases. The word order is just like that in the English writing. The cultural aspect is usually ignored. It’s understandable. It might sound OK to some, because the purpose of a language is to make people understand. No doubt about it!
BUT, the question is should we stop there, right at “acceptable”?
To answer that question, we need to ask ourselves, the marketing professionals, this question: If we wouldn’t find just anybody to write our marketing contents in English, why would we find anybody to translate it into another language?
If your English original is inspiring, exciting, tempting, inviting, welcoming or just beautiful, you need to make sure that the Chinese translation doesn’t fall under par. When the audience reads your Chinese translation, they can tell how much effort you put into communicating with them and will judge you on that.
Good translation cannot only show how professional you are, but how much you care about the readers. And the difference made by a good piece of writing/translation over a mediocre one could never be over exaggerated.
So don’t stop at acceptable, take it up a level, to exceptional!
Michael Zhang is a professional English-Chinese translator and tourism marketing professional. As a designated translator for National Geographic Traveler (China) and Ontario Toursim Marketing Partnership Corporation, he has done many important translation works for clients from all over the world, including TV and print advertisement, brochures, books, etc., including 3 NYTimes bestsellers.