;   Medical Translation Insight: When is "good enough" good enough? - ForeignExchange Translations

When is "good enough" good enough?

When is 'good enough' good enough in translation?Val Swisher's blog post When is Good Enough, Good Enough? takes a different kind of look at the debate around translation quality.

She mentions how a conference attendee's question set off a lively discussion:

What are your thoughts regarding publishing translations of content that are not perfect? Are 'good enough' translations better than no translations at all?
I wasn't in the room but I bet the conversation quickly became polarized between arguments around "Quality is non-negotiable" and "Quality is in the eye of the beholder". (For the record, ForeignExchange's position is that the definition of "good" quality depends on the text being translated and that for quality to exist, it must be measured.)

In her post, Val shares three observations of her own:
  1. Start with the end in mind. Write your content so it is easy to translate.
  2. Decide which types of content are acceptable with ’good enough’ translations.
  3. Globalization is young and, therefore, very forgiving. It won't always be this way.
It is interesting to get the perspective from a relative "newbie" to translation. Val's last point, in particular, is refreshing. I haven't heard anybody else talk about the fact that globalization is a quite recent development, and that expectations and business models around globalization (and with it, translation) are not yet fully formed.

What's your opinion - are there situation in medical translation when "good enough" suffices?

For a detailed proposal on your next clinical, regulatory, or marketing medical translation assignment, contact ForeignExchange Translations.


  1. Ofer Tirosh said...
    In my opinion the real question should be how one may realize when a translation is good enough or perfect and whether there is a perfect translation at all.
    Val Swisher said...
    Thanks very much for picking up my blog post. I would guess that medical translators are under a great deal of pressure to make sure their translations are accurate. You wouldn't want to have incorrect health-related information published. An incorrect translation of a Chinese (or Italian...or any other) menu is one thing. But my instructions on prescription dosage (for example) is an entirely different story.

    It is interesting for me to know that my perspective on the "youth" of content globalization is one that has not been said many times before. While I am a newcomer to the world of translation, it seems pretty clear to me that as the rest of the world becomes more accustomed to having content in various native languages, the demand to make that content accurate is going to rise. People are forgiving while they are grateful. And gratitude only lasts for a certain amount of time.

    I'll be interested to see what your readers think about all of this.

    Thanks again!
    Clay Ellis said...
    For Quality Professionals you have to keep what the customers want and are will to PAY for in mind. With a mature industry cost is often the issue, after all shoes made in America had excellent quality but lower cost imports took over. Textiles are the same, even though most of the imports quality for clothing is truly afwful. The Cost vs. Quality balance is one that every company stuggles with.

    [Via LinkedIn]
    Lonnie Mitschelen said...
    When the cost of achieving a higher degree of quality exceeds the cost of doing nothing more, then "good enough is good enough".

    The difficulty is in correctly estimating the costs. Customer satisfaction, social costs, cost of human life, health, environment are more difficult than time and materials costs. And, they are really all more variable than we'd like to admit.

    The answer to what constitutes the optimal quality level for a particular situation lies in properly estimating all of the relevant costs and revenues involved. These estimates are then used to calculate the return on investment, break-even point or net-present-value.

    The weakest part of this system is the folks doing the estimating. But, human estimating capability can be "calibrated" according to Douglas Hubbard's book, "How to Measure Anything - Finding the Value of INTANGIBLES in Business" (John Wiley & Sons)

    [Via LinkedIn]
    amaxson said...
    Something else to consider: Val's comment "Start with the end in mind. Write your content so it is easy to translate." Is also applicable to the formatting/DTP/Design side of translation.

    Not only should content be written so it is easy to be translated, but the file should be designed to accommodate translation as well. When a file is made with an end-user in mind, the entire translation process becomes easier, less risky, and often cheaper. If the content is easy to translate, in theory, there will be less translation errors. Same goes for design. If the file has been designed keeping in mind that translations are often 20-30% longer than English, or that Asian languages are shorter than English, the formatting of documents becomes much easier, and the end result is a cleaner file.

    Even if the file is not designed to accommodate different lengths of text, a clean, well designed file is easier to work with. Just knowing there is an end-user, and designing a file with "the end in mind" can alleviate many common formatting problems. Too often, we see files that have been made to look 'nice' but, it is clear the designer was never told someone else would have to work in the file. We understand that sometimes the company requesting the translation never thought they'd be translating it, therefore the designer could not know. We sometimes recommend an "English Prep" step, where we spend time cleaning up the formatting of the English to save time and costs on the back end.
    Keeping the end in mind is indeed a good practice, for many aspects of the translation process!

Post a Comment


Services | Resources | Company | Contact Us | Blog | Home

(c) Copyright 2010, ForeignExchange Translations, Inc.