Of Sweaters and Translations

knittingWith crowdsourcing being so much in the localization news lately, the concept of "consistency" has also frequently come up.

Consistency, along with quality, has been declared the victim of crowdsourcing by those opposed to using the "crowd" for localization. Promotors of crowdsourcing claim that consistency is a myth and not dependent on the number of people working on a project. I sometimes feel this is a false debate.

Yes, consistency is sacred to translators, but are they wrong, defensive, and antiquated?

A text is consistent if the same term is used to describe the same source term throughout the translation, and if the style applied to it is the same as well. Basically, a consistent text is one in which a reader cannot tell that it has been written or translated by more than one person.

Now, let's bring knitting into this debate.

If you know how to knit, and if you'll forgive me for oversimplifying, I think the analogy will be rather enlightening. We all have our knitting style: somebody likes to knit very tight, others leave the yarn loose. Two people cannot knit the same sweater: the difference will be visible immediately. And that is a sacred principle for those that knit. If you start a sweater, you finish it yourself.

Is this wrong, defensive, antiquated?

Like with most things in life, luckily, there is no right or wrong. It depends on what you need. If you are very cold and need a sweater quickly, then you don’t really mind that one sleeve feels thicker than the other. If you buy a cashmere sweater and you want to show it off, your sleeves had better look the same.

Somebody once said that if you ask a yes/no question to a translator, the answer will likely be "It depends."
Frustrating as it might be, I still think it is a wonderful answer.   

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Smart, fun and useful. Acclaro shares news and tips on translation, localization, language, global business and culture.


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