The Linguist

The Linguist 58-1 Feb-Mar2019

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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FEATURES 24 The Linguist Vol/58 No/1 2019 Jaquelina Guardamagna reveals the detailed roundtable discussions that go into the preparation of multi-region surveys W hile most translation courses focus on the mastery of techniques and skills for translating to professional standards, doing research and using relevant technology, in the job market there are other procedures – such as transcreation, localisation and harmonisation – which reveal the added value offered by translators in different fields. Brandt and Anderson's article on transcreation in the development of an international advertising campaign ('Selling Success', TL57,4) reminded me of working on the harmonisation of questionnaires for the medical sector. I found similarities between the behind-the-scenes work required for the success of both the transcreation and the harmonisation tasks. To harmonise, i.e. 'to make consistent or compatible' (OED), is a concept I had not heard during my university studies. So when I was invited to a meeting for the linguistic validation of medical questionnaires in central London eight years ago, I was intrigued about what was expected before, during and after the assignment. The project manager provided clear details about the time and location of the harmonisation meeting, the participants, and the work I was supposed to carry out. Understanding the context, subject matter and client expectations made me feel confident and well prepared for the task. Prior to the meeting, the client emailed me the medical questionnaires we were going to analyse, with a translation in Spanish and a detailed glossary of the terms used by the questionnaire developers. I had enough time to go through both versions, understand the meaning and intention behind each term, and make notes about the translation I received. The meeting reunited a group of about 15 translation consultants working on different language combinations, the project manager and the questionnaire developer. As a Spanish translator from Argentina, I was allocated a seat within a group of Spanish professionals who specialised in varieties from Mexico, Spain and Colombia. There were Portuguese translators who would harmonise the questionnaire for Brazil and Portugal; French translators working on the versions for Canada and France; as well as professionals for Asian and Eastern European languages. The questionnaire was presented in its final layout with all the phrases, questions and multiple-choice answers that would be given to patients in the target countries. We also received a parallel form divided into sections with space for translators' notes. The idea behind the meeting was to offer a spontaneous response to the translated version, and to comment on any wording choices which could be enhanced in the target text, in order to ensure that all questions and options were comprehensible for patients and, therefore, that the answers and results would be accurate for scientific purposes. By this time, the survey had already gone through a process of two forward translations, reconciliation, back translation, back translation review and developer review. From my point of view, a clear understanding of the age, social background and region of potential respondents, and of the developer's intention behind each question, were the key factors to generating the best possible Spanish version. Agonising over words We were asked to discuss, within our language groups, whether any changes would enhance the translations. A roundtable discussion followed in which we offered verbal back translations into English of the version in our mother tongue. This was intended to reveal any discrepancies between the meaning conveyed by the developer and the meaning conveyed by the translation. We then compared our English version to the English source text, and suggested amendments when we found discrepancies or when a different term would enhance the target text. One of the flaws of the back-translation exercise was that a word-for-word English rendering of the translated questionnaire could not be 100% accurate, mainly because we express concepts differently, and use a different word order or term, depending on the audience of the country and region we are targeting. Such concerns were voiced during the discussion, and we managed the back-translation challenge by offering examples of phrases or expressions and focusing on the differences conveyed by tone and meaning, rather than on just the words. Working in harmony USEFUL DATA When a doctor asks a patient to complete a survey (above) they are rarely aware of the detailed work that goes into the translation of such questionnaires for use in multiple regions (top)

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