Who are you Writing for?

Who your readers are is a major factor for the form and content of any text. Are you addressing an expert readership on a specialist topic, or designing a marketing campaign for a particular section of the population? Is your audience local or international?

If you are targeting an international audience, your text is very likely destined to be translated and it is vital to bear this in mind when writing. Translation is not simply about words; it is as much about the effective communication or sharing of ideas, concepts and culture. Words are only the vehicle. What makes sense in Belgium may confuse in Japan, offend in Zambia and have comical connotations in Peru. It is part of the translator’s role to spot any cultural issues in the original text and adapt them in the translation, but the author’s awareness of their own culture and their effort to avoid any culture-specific references in the text goes a long way to help the translator.

For instance, if a Commonwealth citizen weaves various cricket terms into their text as puns or idiomatic expressions such as “sticky wicket”, “off his own bat”, “on the back foot”, etc., the Spanish translator will have either to use their own creativity and think of an equivalent theme with a list of expressions to match the style and possibly the humour of the original or remove all metaphors and bring humour (if applicable) in other ways. The first case is called ‘transcreation’: it is more involved than a regular translation, requiring extra research and stylistic work, and consequently is more time-consuming for the translator and more expensive for the client. In the second case, the text will be faithfully translated but the effort in wordplay and the parallel with cricket will be lost. Either way, the text will need to be partly rewritten to fit the audience, and this task is beyond the scope of translation per se.

Unless you wish to give a local feel to your text, it is best to avoid cultural references to ensure that translation is feasible. By thinking internationally from the start and putting yourself in the shoes of someone who has no idea about your culture, you help to make the translation process simpler and smoother.

Image: www.cartoonstock.com

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