Translation is an art and a science. A skilled translator will have to go beyond the mere act of translating, taking into account cultural nuances, accurate colloquialism, and full understanding of the target audience. He/she needs to make adjustments between source and target, shifting word order, using verbs instead of nouns and replacing nouns for pronouns according to the semantic requirements of the receiver. In English, words are usually shorter and there are three genders (he/she/it) instead of two as in Portuguese. Furthermore, English also requires more indirect quotations, has different punctuation formats, upper cases in titles and headings, idiomatic expressions, clichés and proverbs seldom correspond.
This makes the art of translation especially tricky since if a translation does not read naturally in the target language, is not equivalent to the source text, and has difficulty conveying the right meaning, it is a poor translation.
Always make sure your client gives you a brief as to the demographics of the target market. Are they schooled? If yes, are they blue or white collar workers? Do they have a wide exposure to the world or do you need to focus on local customs and traditions? Are they predominantly male or female? Would they be the end-user of a product or are they part of the supply chain? Often these questions seem absurd but quite often the value locked-up in asking them will assist you as a translator to pitch your translation at the right audience level (respecting their ability and their needs). Do not be afraid to ask questions, the reality is you will translate something vastly different if your audience is a grade ten class as opposed to a PhD class.
The Language Inc. team