MICA: The Four Cornerstones Of Translation

by Jim Dulin

If the simple translation of a group of words into another language was all that’s required, any bilingual person could do it. In fact, computers do it all the time, simply exchanging words or phrases in one language for similar words and phrases in another. Of course that’s not nearly enough.

In any type of translation, no matter how large or small, four major criteria must be considered and satisfied: Mood, Intent, Context, and Accuracy. All are equally important in development of the translated document. If you are in the process of choosing a translation service for your document(s), be sure:

  • they are thoroughly professional
  • they have an enviable reputation
  • their translations are built on these four essentials.

Intent answers the question “What is this piece supposed to accomplish?” Every document, no matter what the final form will be – appellate brief, sales manual, television commercial, email, or some other communications tool – is written with a purpose. This purpose must be understood and explicitly conveyed in the translated document in such a way that it has the intended effect on the reader or audience.

Every document is also written in a certain Mood – using words and phrases that convey a feeling appropriate to its intended audience. An appellate brief, for example, whose intended audience is a judge or other member of the legal profession, uses formal language and structure. An installation manual uses the simplest and most direct possible language and form. An advertisement or other marketing tool might use humor to make a point. The correct mood engages the reader or viewer, keeps their interest, and gives them confidence in the author. It must be retained in the translated document.

Any well thought out document is also aware of the Context in which the document will appear: the type of audience for whom it is being written, and the environment in which they will receive it. For example, the recipient may have been exposed to other messages relevant to the topic. A variety of external elements tangential to the subject may also be influential and must be considered.  Context, therefore, requires an intimate knowledge of the audience or recipient. Without that knowledge, it is impossible to retain the Mood of the original document.

Accuracy, of course, is essential. There must be no typographical errors or grammatical improprieties. Just as important, words and phrases must be translated accurately so that the author’s exact meaning is apparent, and the subtleties of the original language – the author’s shades of meaning – come through.

Mood, Intent, Context, and Accuracy. These are the cornerstones you – or your translation service – must use to build a translation that accomplishes all the objectives of the original document. For more insight, or to find out more about our services, please contact us.

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