Professional translation is a complex and detailed process. It requires a fluent understanding of both the source and target languages, as well as an ability to convey the original meaning in a manner that avoids misunderstanding of the message or misuse of a product. Native translation has long been considered the gold standard for achieving these objectives.

Why Native Translation Is Best

Native translation (translating the target document into your native tongue) ensures a level of polish and accuracy that is often lacking in a translation done by a non-native speaker—even if they are fluent in the target language. To fully understand this, think of someone you know who is fluent in your native language, but is not a native speaker. They communicate effectively and with few, if any, errors. However, they may use phrases or words that don’t sound right or aren’t quite correct grammatically. These small errors remain, even if they have been speaking and living with the target language for many years.

Of course, spoken fluency is often easier to achieve than written fluency. And technical translations require accurate and precise written fluency to avoid any misunderstanding or misuse of products. Here again, a native translation is much more likely to be well-written and accurate in meaning, helping to avoid any misunderstandings that could lead to customer dissatisfaction or legal repercussions.

For these reasons, translation industry best practices demand that translation companies use native translators. This is one way to ensure the quality and accuracy of a translation and to be certain is understood and well-received by the target audience.

For technical translations, where the level of accuracy is critical to safely operate products or devices, a native translation is especially important and helps ensure the instructions for use are clear. For companies that are concerned about safety, product misuse, or malpractice, native translation should be a priority.

Does Location Matter?

In today’s global economy, you may be wondering whether it is important for the native translator to reside in a country where the language is spoken. Surprisingly, a translator does not need to live in the country of their native language. Daily immersion is not as critical as the fact that their first language is the target language.

Professional translators are not just native speakers, they are also professional linguists. It is their job to keep up with their native language and any linguistic changes that may be occurring in their native tongue, no matter where they reside geographically. In fact, you may find these translators are more attuned to linguistic nuances than in-country residents—they are trained to be.

And if a translator has subject matter expertise (such as in medical devices or legal documents), they are also well-versed in the technical terms required for the translation—terms so technical that native, non-subject matter experts may not know or understand them. This level of subject matter expertise is especially critical in avoiding any misuse or misunderstanding around the product or topic being translated.

The Final Word

No matter what type of document you need to be translated, seeking a professional, native translator will help improve the accuracy and written flow of your document. However, if your document is also highly technical, you’ll better avoid malpractice, misunderstanding, or misuse by finding a native translator who also has the subject matter expertise to understand the technical details of your document and convey information precisely in their native language.