Continuing in this series of articles expanding on Ensuring Effective Translations, the next set of tips are to help you make sure that the information you are giving to your service provider is well prepared.
Having an inquisitive translator will prove useful – No one gives your texts more careful attention than your translator. As they progress through your document, he or she is likely to identify uncertain issues – sections where clarification may be needed. This is a good thing! It will give you the opportunity to improve your original document. The kind of translator you want (the good ones) take your sentences apart entirely before they create new ones in the target language. Expect them to ask questions along the way.
Your translator should:
- Read and understand the entire body of the text before starting the translation.
- Make a list of terms or phrases that they do not understand in order to obtain clarifications.
- Use a spell-check program, if available.
- Check for text enhancements: italics, underlined text or bolded text.
- Check for capitalization, punctuation, and typographical errors.
- Verify the new format they created against the original version you provided. They need to account for every paragraph, bullet, box and format feature that was contained in the original version.
- Foresee adequate time to have the materials reviewed by the proofreader.
- Once the proofreader has made recommendation and suggested changes, the translator must evaluate if appropriate.
- Provide one final review of the translation one more time before publishing.
Beware of expansion and contraction factors
Word count can change when translating into other languages from English. This is known as the ‘expansion factor’ or ‘contraction factor’. For example, when translating from English to Russian, you can be certain that the word count will increase. Conversely, many Asian languages use scripts that require less space than English.
This means that when you are having a brochure, website or any other material translated into a new language, be prepared for the fact that it may become considerably longer or significantly shorter. Therefore, be sure to check how your translator charges for their service and whether they base their fees on the source or target language as this can make a difference in your final costs.
Consider that typography varies from one language to another – Many printers and office staff may be tempted to “adjust” foreign language texts to bring them into line with their own standards. This should be verified and avoided. French has a space between a word and the colon that follows, and uses « » for quotation marks. In German, all nouns take capital letters. In Spanish and French, neither months nor days of the week take an initial capital. Not to mention, it’s not alright to type just an “n” when Spanish requires an “ñ”. This may seem like minor things, but the cumulative effect is off-putting for foreign-language readers. Make sure your translator respects the typographical conventions of the language you need working into.
Beware of machine translations
Language translation: pas de problème! Just pop your text into an automatic machine or software translation, right? Not quite! With budgets being tightened, it may seem fitting to use this type of translation to save money and time, but it will most always offer a translation filled with mistakes. This could potentially do you more harm than you think. Automatic translations don’t think for themselves and can’t grasp the important nuances of a language; they most often get it wrong. You will have no way of verifying if this translation is appropriate before it is too late.
By offering a less than perfect translation to your customers, it gives the impression that they are not worthy of you taking the time and making the effort to have proper text for them understand. This could mean a negative effect on your organisation’s reputation.
If you must use machine translation – Use it when you need to get just an idea of something for your own use. Machine Translation (MT) can be useful in these circumstances since it is free and quick.
While machine translation (MT) such as Google Translate and Babelfish have come a long way over the years, use it sparingly. It should not be used for your business communication. Machine translation (MT) should not to be confused with computer aided translation since it basically substitutes words from one language to another without considering nuance.
Some of the negative results of using machine translation include:
- The tool generates one meaning of a word in the target language, but the translated word can be out of context.
- Sentence structures are no longer recognisable in the target language.
- Grammar is generally overlooked; a sentence in the past tense might end up in the simple past form.
Areas where machine translation can be useful:
- Translation of emails to understand the basic communication.
- Quick translation of text from a website.
- To get an overall meaning of a letter received.
Areas where machine translation should never be used:
- Printing or publishing of documents
- Court cases
- Corporate marketing
- Patent applications
- Submitting tenders
- Medical documents
What about translation software? As I mentioned earlier, if you’re pressed for time and want to get the essence of something for your own use, than translation software may be helpful. It is certainly quick and you can’t get much cheaper than free. But as a general rule of thumb, raw computer output should never be used by your translator for anything outbound, especially without your express agreement beforehand. There are simply too many associated risks. Careful editing of machine output by skilled human translators could be an option, however, many translators will not accept such assignments as they believe that it’s faster to start from scratch.
Finally, keeping up to date in current events and current slang needs to be considered by both the translator and your company. These can vary from one language to another and must be translated in the right context. We often provide our translators with texts containing new expressions that are trendy or have just crept into the language from everyday occurrences (social media). We need to ensure that our translators get the essence of our intended use.
In the next article we will look at the eighth step – Review translation; tips to ensure that the correct quality assurance steps are undertaken to make sure the translation is correct.
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