Translation is an art in itself but not necessarily an exact science: even (technical) texts with many accepted terminological equivalents cannot always be readily transposed from source language A to B. Rather, translation often involves breaking down the original text into its constituent meaningful elements and then reassembling these in the target language while keeping in mind the context in which the translation will be used and by whom.
Translating ‘what it says’ is the basis, but what may be obvious to the author or reader of the source text is not necessarily so to readers in the target language, for example because the original text refers to institutions or practices specific to its country of origins that readers from different cultural or legal backgrounds may not be aware of.
This is why I approach translation less as a technical procedure of converting a text from source to target language, but rather as a creative rewriting of the original text in a different language. The added value of a skilled translator is that he will read and interpret the text as a whole and, if necessary, tighten up, further clarify or otherwise improve upon the original (what is called ‘transcreation’) in order to ensure the translation is meaningful and understandable in itself and not recognisable as a translation. This especially applies to translations intended for a more general readership, which may be less versed in the subject matter than the original author and require further elaboration. Whether legal or general translation, readability is key.
I am a certified translator from Dutch into English and from English into Dutch and a native speaker of both Dutch and English. For my English translations, I use British English spelling and idiomatic conventions by default, unless agreed otherwise with the client. The aim is always to optimise my translation for its intended use and readership. For legal translations (see the section on legal translation), this means not just finding appropriate linguistic equivalents but also keeping in mind systemic and organisational intricacies of the respective legal languages and cultures.