It's often said that the hallmark of a good translation is that it doesn't read like a translation. But a good translation does more than that. It conveys your message to a foreign audience with the same impact as the original by using language that reflects the cultural and linguistic sensibilities of your readers. It's still your message, of course, but reformulated by someone from another part of the world or another linguistic group — in other words, a native speaker who is familiar with your intended audience and can help you navigate the stormy seas of communication.
Not surprisingly, you sometimes have to bend the rules to achieve the best results. A word-for-word approach rarely does the trick, so you distill the concepts to a primordial soup in the linguistic laboratory of your brain before you recombine the DNA and synthesize the message in words that are right on target.
There is one important rule that I never break: I always translate into my mother tongue, never into a foreign language.
So all it takes is a native speaker to create a great translation? No. It takes sound writing skills combined with tenacity, perfectionism and a somewhat obsessive desire to keep polishing a text until it shines as much as the original. It also requires someone who has an intimate knowledge of the source language and culture. In short, it takes someone with years of experience, an eye for detail and a strong sense of curiosity.
Although I'm not a technology geek — or a brain surgeon or a lawyer —, I regularly translate texts on innovative products and services, and journalistic articles on complex topics like the legal implications of the latest ruling by the German Constitutional Court. But if your text is too technical for me, I'll let you know immediately and, if possible, point you to a more qualified colleague. In this business, you have to know your limits.