Importance of Source Text

Bad Source Text Results In A Bad Translation

Bad Source Text Results In A Bad Translation

(Last Updated On: September 26, 2022)

If everyone in the world did what they were supposed to do, things would have been a lot easier. But unfortunately, some people often neglect their duties, and others have to take responsibility. It works out fine a couple of times, but then the one taking extra responsibility gets tired and decides to ignore them. This happens in every field where multiple experts have to work together to create something. Everyone remembers the group projects where the bad performance of one member affected the grade of everyone else too. There are many similar problems in the world of translation that have been affecting the work quality of experts for years.

The Importance of Source Text:


Source text is the material that the translator reads and then translates it into the target language. Depending on the type of document, the importance of the source text varies. For instance, in the case of an official document like a birth certificate, the linguistic expert has to include all the information in the final file. But in documents like user manuals and marketing suggestions, the linguistic expert has the freedom to get creative. But this doesn’t mean that they can start creating content on their own. They only work with the material that is offered to them.

Sometimes, however, the source text turns out to be so poorly written that the linguistic expert has no choice but to rely on their writing abilities. If they follow the source text, they will end up with a poorly written target file.

how to handle Bad Source Text
Bad Source Text

Bad Source Text Results in a Bad Translation?


So, is it true that a bad source text results in a bad translation? Not necessarily. It depends on a few factors. If it is the kind of file that has room for creativity, then the translator can work their magic and perform some copywriting duties. If it is one of those official documents that have less than 200 words, then there is a high chance that it will lead to a bad translation. In latter cases, linguistic experts have no choice but to follow the language written in the source text.

It also depends on the linguistic expert’s writing ability. Some of them have no prior experience with creative writing, which is why they may not be able to save a bad source text from a worse fate. On the other hand, some experts know creative writing too well and might end up adding unnecessary information to the final text. These are all the consequences of a poorly written source document.

How to Handle Bad Source Text?


Instead of wasting their energy on writing creative content, linguistic experts can try to solve this problem. There are multiple ways in which they can tackle the problem of a bad source text. Here is what they should do:

  1. Contact the Client:

Before making any big decision regarding the translation, it is better to consult the client. They might be able to correct the source file for you. They may even have some other solution. In any case, it is not wise to take any big steps without consulting with the client first. You can ask them as many questions as you want to make the source file clearer for you. However, when there are technical documents in question, clients don’t know much about them either. That’s when you can ask the client if you are allowed to interpret the source file loosely.

By informing your client that their source text is poorly written, you will be doing them a favor. They will be able to eliminate the errors in the file before sharing it with the public.

  1. Compare with Other Documents:

If it is an official record or paper and you think there is a misprint or incorrect spellings on the document, you can compare it with similar files that you can find on the internet. This way, you will be able to figure out the mistakes in the source file. You will also be able to make the right decisions while working on the document based on the information you gather from the internet.

  1. Keep It Simple:

Sometimes, a bad source text means that it is full of complicated terms that common people won’t be able to understand. As a translator, it is your job to make the content simple so everyone can understand it easily. So, if there are big words in the source file, you can find their simpler alternatives for your target audience and then translate it. This way, a poorly written text will not affect the quality of the translation.

  1. Know the Context:

Even if you receive a poorly written document, if you know the context, you will be able to translate it properly. Being familiar with the target audience can help translators in understanding the context. If you are a native speaker of the source language, you also won’t have any problems with understanding the cultural aspects. Once you are certain that you have understood the context and familiarized yourself with the cultural aspects, you can start working on the linguistic file.

There are a lot of questions that a linguistic expert will have to face in their lifetime. But whenever faced with a poorly written document, it would be better for them to exhaust all options first instead of trying to put their writing talent to use. They can focus on accurately translating the document and let their client handle the rest.

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