We have frequently been asked to discuss bad translations and/or translation errors that we have seen over our years of practice; instead, today I thought that it would be better to discuss how to recognize a translation that is well done.

  • A good translation is where the translator is invisible, imperceptible;
  • A good translation sings, whispers, hums in the ear and swears like the original text and leaves the reader thrilled, disturbed and amused in the same way as the original text;
  • A good translation respects and, therefore, reflects the author’s style and vocabulary and is sensitive to the meaning, effect and intent of the original text, but also the best ways to render them in the target language;
  • A good translation captures the spirit of the original text without slavishly following it to the letter;
  • A good translation captures the energy and texture and voice of the source text and replicates them in the translation;
  • A good translation conveys what is written between the lines;
  • A good translation elicits the same emotional response in the reader as the source text does in its readers;
  • A good translation reads as if the text was originally written in the language into which it has been translated; and
  • A good translation makes you to want to read it.

What do you think? Can you add more ways to spot a good translation?

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