Volume 11, No. 1 
January 2007

  M. Seren-Rosso

  Front Page  
Select one of the previous 38 issues.


Index 1997-2007
TJ Interactive: Translation Journal Blog

  Translator Profiles
On Becoming a Court Interpreter
by Albert G. Bork

  The Profession
The Bottom Line
by Fire Ant & Worker Bee
It could happen to you!
by Natasha Curtis
Translation Company Owners — Does Your Business Own You?
by Huiping Iler
On the Matter of Discounts
by Danilo & Vera Nogueira
Ten Ways to Make Sure You Get a Really Bad Translation
by M.L. Seren-Rosso

  In Memoriam
Catarina Tereza Feldmann, 1944 - 2006
by Regina Alfarano

  Translation Nuts & Bolts
Translation of Proper Names in Non-fiction Texts
by Heikki Särkkä

  Book Review
Translating Poet-Translators: Norman R. Shapiro Meets Marot, du Bellay, and Ronsard
by Robert Paquin, Ph.D.
Thinking German Translation
by Gertrud Champe

  Translation Theory
Domesticating the Theorists: A Plea for Plain Language
by María Teresa Sánchez
The Role of Bilingualism in Translation Activity
by Burce Kaya

  Translators Education
Meeting Students’ Expectations in Undergraduate Translation Programs
by Séverine Hubscher-Davidson

  Translators' Tools
The Impact of Translation Memory Tools on the Translation Profession
by Ahmed Saleh Elimam
Machine Translation Revisited
by Jost Zetzsche
Exploring Translation Corpora with MkAlign
by Serge Fleury and Maria Zimina
Translators’ Emporium

  Caught in the Web
Web Surfing for Fun and Profit
by Cathy Flick, Ph.D.
Translators’ On-Line Resources
by Gabe Bokor
Translators’ Best Websites
by Gabe Bokor

  Translators' Events
Upcoming Events
Languages and the Media Conference—Berlin 2006
by Robert Paquin, Ph.D.

Call for Papers and Editorial Policies
  Translation Journal

The Profession


Ten Ways to Make Sure You Get a Really Bad Translation

(for corporate entities outsourcing translations in any language combination)

by M.L. Seren-Rosso


  1. Never plan in advance what to translate or when. Why save time and stress when you can do things the hard way? Put some zest in your life! Improvise!
  2. Don't bother to test translation suppliers. Instead use quick, foolproof recruitment techniques, such as:
    1. consulting a non-linguist buddy or well-intentioned superior (you could even employ his cousin's wife, since she studied languages in school). Back-scratching guarantees a truly imaginative rendering of your annual report or state-of-the art computer code.
    2. giving preference to sympathetic companies or freelance translators who can meet impossible deadlines at bargain prices. You can double your profits by replacing costly local translators with emerging economy linguists, regardless of mother tongue.
  3. Once you've "selected" a supplier, keep him! And don't worry about his work ethic. So what if he has staggering staff turnover and forgets to pay his subcontractors? Translation is just a question of opening a dictionary or, these days, a CAT tool. Again, there is no shortage of hungry job hunters out there.
  4. If overseas subsidiaries complain about your translated copy, ignore them. They probably don't know their own languages. Above all, watch out! They may be secretly trying to wrench power away from you...
  5. Do not give your supplier background documents. Providing him with in-house lexicons, hard-to-find scientific articles or previous translations is counterproductive. He should be using all his energy to look up the same terms his predecessors did: raw vocabulary, not subject knowledge, is the key to good translation.
  6. Keep your translator in the dark about what his work is for. If he yearns to enhance your message by adapting the target language to specific markets or cultures, he may also want to be treated like a partner. Protect him, for his own sake, from unhealthy delusions of grandeur.
  7. Avoid suppliers who specialize in your field. Such people are too conscious of their own limits (and yours?). This dangerous state of mind may lead them to constantly suggest ways of perfecting your translation process! Prefer less experienced linguists unlikely to interfere in your affairs.
  8. Foster isolation. One infallible method is to impose a harassed secretary or closed-minded agency manager at the translator-to-document author interface. Who wants to clarify minute points of detail? Ambiguity adds spice to dull technical reports.
  9. Let your in-house staff criticize and change translated texts without consulting the supplier. These same persons are also ideal candidates for compiling glossaries with terms in languages other than their own. An approach that will lend an exotic touch to your corporate literature.
  10. Wherever possible, entrust translation management to monolinguals with limited communication skills (e.g. purchasers). This will discourage unwanted translator initiatives and leave your hands free to get on with some real work. Language issues are kid stuff, right?

If you faithfully follow the advice given above, you will certainly achieve the translation quality you deserve!