Many people think that translating is easy, that all you have to do is change words from one language into their equivalents into another. But if you’ve tried Google translate or any other machine translation software, you know it’s not true. There are debates about what makes a translation good or bad, but many agree that the best translation doesn’t look like a translation.
Here are 10 tips to keep in mind when accepting a translation project and how to produce the best results in the end for a good translation.
1. Always see the document before accepting any project
Checking the documents before you accept the job is the only way to ascertain that the work is within your abilities and that the deadlines are reasonable. It also enables you to check if the original material is complete and that you are familiar with the subject matter.
2. Who/What is the translation for?
You also need to discuss with the client about the kind of translation he/she wants, the intended message, the target audience and any information that will determine the style of translation required.
3. A good translation requires time
You can’t translate on a whim. Read the source text thoroughly, pay attention to details such as language nuances or register, inform the client of any mistakes or ambiguities you may find, research some technical terms.
It is also important to get some rest. Un-glue yourself from your computer screen, have a break and do something else; you will go back to your translation more relaxed and with fresher eyes.
4. “Good writers are those who keep the language efficient. That is to say, keep it accurate, keep it clear” (Ezra Pound)
If the text you translate contains idiomatic references, don’t hesitate to add comments or notes to make it easier for the reader to understand. That’s why a good knowledge of both the source and target language is crucial.
5. Keep your target audience in mind
This is the best way to ensure you will translate with the intent of conveying the exact meaning of the original message. It will also make you remember to respect a specific spelling or vocabulary if you are translating into a variant of a language (e.g. French Canadian, Brazilian Portuguese etc).
6. Make sure your words have meaning
If you opt for a literal translation, you may get unpleasant surprises. While you must preserve the original style of the author (tone, register…), you can’t duplicate the syntax or the grammatical construction of the source language, unless of course it is correct in the target language. You also don’t have to keep all the words from the source text if you want to avoid redundancy in your translation. Conversely, don’t hesitate to add some words in your translation if you feel it will make the meaning clearer.
7. Stick to what you know
Rely on your skills and experience. They will help you make the right decisions when translating a difficult text. It may take time to hone them, but remember practice makes perfect.
8. When in doubt, ask for help
It is normal to sometimes face doubts or difficulties when translating a document; translation is not an exact science (and even scientists have doubts!). Don’t be afraid to consult colleagues or other linguists when you are stuck. You should even talk to the client or the author of the source text, if you can contact him/her.
9. The finishing touch (a.k.a. Proofreading and Revision)
We are so absorbed in our work that it can be difficult to distance ourselves from it; this is where a second pair of eyes is essential. When your translation is done, have another linguist or a native speaker proofread it. They can spot mistakes you may have not noticed. They will also make sure that your translation sounds natural in the target language. Your translation is now ready to be delivered to the client.
10. Getting better at it
As the experienced translator Lanna Castellano said: “Our profession is based on knowledge and experience. It has the longest apprenticeship of any profession”. Continuous learning is the key to improve your skills and expertise. Languages are permanently evolving and developing so you need to keep up to date.
Bonus Tip! Provide Information on Certified Translations for Important and Legal Documents
If you do not know about certifying translations or how document translation can be certified then speak to a local translation company and find out if you can work with them to offer correct and legal certification of any documents you translate. This is particularly important for legal documents such as birth certificates, marriage and death certification. There are also different levels of certification and some are free while others cost and require a lawyer.
Now that you have read our top tips on producing a good translation you should have a better understanding on how the translation process works. If you wish to find out more about translation projects or different services which can need translation then contact us today.
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