Quick Note on assessing translation quality

If there’s one golden rule to stick to when trying to assess the quality of translations of foreign language works, it is seeing if there are explanatory footnotes, endnotes, etc., that give guidance. 

Most sources, that I could find, and professional translators seem to be in agreement that, without explanation, many terms can lose a lot of ancilliary meanings.

This applies universally and especially important for distant languages like Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, etc.

A simple example: From a Canadian bilingual perspective the most clear cut example is preserving the appropriate level of formality in French to English translations. Without the formal ‘you’ found in French (vous) English texts have to go through more complicated processes for the same effect. Needless to say, this does not always happen.

In a more complex example: There is the persistent problem of Chinese (Standard Mandarin) to English translation. In fact, it is more difficult than even the reverse, English to Chinese translation, due to structural differences inherent in the languages (ideogram vs phonetic, high context vs low context, etc.) that complicate 100% sense preservation in the forward direction.

Imagine if you were an alien visiting Earth or an uncontested Amazonian tribe, without any context whatsoever, and were given the task of such a translation. For any given page of Chinese prose, depending on its technical complexity, another page or two worth of explanatory context could be needed for an accurate translation.