It’s not always easy to tell the difference between good and bad translations, especially for those who aren’t multilingual. As expected, high-quality translations come from qualified and experienced translators who are experts in their field. But what do the benefits and characteristics of high quality translations look like? What are the characteristics that set them apart from poor translations?

Read on to learn more about the characteristics of a good translation and the benefits of employing an experienced translator.

What is a high-quality translation?

On the surface, finding out what a high-quality translation is, seems to be a very subjective matter. However, there are certain practices that good professional translators follow. Those can make all the difference in the quality of the final product.

The French poet Etienne Dolet was one of the first to try to nail down these practices in what you could almost consider a scientific translation theory. According to Dolet’s description, the ideal characteristics of translation include:

  • Fluency in or mastery of the target languages,
  • Safeguarding the author’s intent and style,
  • Knowledge of the original context,
  • Avoidance of literal translation.

A good translation should rarely be a word-for-word translation from the original text. This is normally what you’ll find in a machine translation, which is why they’re often inaccurate or plain wrong.

A human translator, especially a native speaker who has an in-depth understanding of the language, can ensure that each word is accurate. It’s essential that the overall message and presentation from the source text shine through. This is the true hallmark of a high-quality translation.

Benefits of a high-quality translation

But why does good translation matter? Isn’t it enough to capture the gist of a text without all the subtleties?

In some cases, yes. However, in most cases, translations must grasp every aspect of the original text as much as possible.

This includes tone, message, and style. High-quality translations are much more professional and can make all the difference. Imagine the impact of a bad translation during a witness’s testimony in court.

In short, the benefits of a good translation include:

  • A sense of professionalism,
  • Brand consistency,
  • Better engagement from the target audience,
  • Increased consumer trust and loyalty.

Characteristics of a high quality translation

Now that you know the benefits of using a good translation let’s look into the characteristics for assessing a translation’s quality.

1. Directed to the right target audience

Word selection may need to be adjusted accordingly depending on the translation’s target audience. After all, the tone of an academic study is far different from that of a children’s book. A good translator knows to choose the right words for his target audience. This is especially important with words that may be technically the same in meaning as the word in the original language.

2. Error-Free

Regarding translation, accuracy involves everything from grammar to linguistic choice. Errors in grammar can quickly take away from the quality of a translation, especially in a professional context. Since syntax often differs between languages, it’s important that translators adjust things like word order accordingly to avoid awkward phrasing.

Not to mention, the wrong word choice makes all the difference between different types of translations. If you just need to express the general meaning behind a text, you may not need to be as picky. However, translations for publications require extreme accuracy. Legal translators, for example, must ensure that document translation used as evidence in a trial perfectly conveys the original text’s information and tone.

3. Meaning & Intent

Good translation requires a detailed understanding of the source text’s meaning and the author’s original intent. Literal translations, while technically accurate, fail to capture the subtleties sealed inside the text, such as cultural differences and linguistic context.

Preserving meaning and intent can be especially important when translating literary texts like poems and novels that use everyday or figurative language. The meaning behind such language may be best expressed with a similar metaphor from the target language rather than a word-for-word translation.

4. Consistency

Consistency can be especially important when working on a larger translation project. If you’re translating an entire novel or a large manual, the tone of the translation must remain the same throughout the work.

Not to mention, if the project starts out well with little to no errors but ends with sloppy, awkward phrasing, you have a problem. Worse: imagine a technical manual where words are translated differently although they mean the very same things. That’s a sign of either not preparing a glossary or not using the glossary that you, as the client, gave to the translator. This detracts from the overall experience of the entire translation.

5. Appropriateness

The qualities of a good translation must also include propriety, particularly in the sense of cultural etiquette. Many words and phrases don’t have the same meaning in different languages. It all depends on what they mean in that language, not just their definition. It’s the translator’s job to find the cultural equivalent of these phrases and use them in the translation rather than relying on literal equivalents.

6. Fluency

There’s nothing worse than reading through a translation that sounds clunky and forced, especially as a native speaker. A high quality translation should flow so well that it doesn’t even sound like a translation at all. Instead, it reads as though it came directly from the mouth of a native speaker.


Whether you’re looking to translate a legal document, your game, or marketing materials, you are entitled to a high quality translation. It needs to accurately convey the meaning of your source text to your target audience.

A sloppy translation service may provide a basically right translation. But many nuances can be missed, or misunderstandings can come up, which will impact your product. If you want a team of expert translators who can give you engaging, localized translations, look no further than SandVox.

At SandVox, we strive to deliver high-quality translations that millions of people around the world are enjoying right now. Book a free consultation today to learn more about how we can help your games set off globally.