I recently received one of those comedy requests: a British translation agency contacted me at 5.15pm for an urgent translation: 700 German words for 11am the next day into English – or was it into French as the email subject said? At any rate, the translation had to be done by a “sworn translator recognised by the French authorities”.
When I introduce my services to potential clients, some of them occasionally ask “what are your rates?”. This is a how-long-is-a-piece-of-string kind of question, a sure sign that the person does not understand how translation works and that they could easily fall into the trap of going for the cheapest – but by no means the best – provider as a result.
Although checking the facts in your text is beyond the translator’s remit, hiring a linguist who has a certain level of expertise in your particular field could save you from the embarrassment of oversights.
Of course, a translator will focus on the language first; the content is down to you and, if there are mistakes in the source document, the translator cannot be expected to spot them all, if any. It is your responsibility to ensure that the text is accurate and ready for publication. But we’re all human and, despite your diligence, translators Continue reading →
Just like being able to speak English is not enough to be the next Oscar Wilde, not every job that involves a foreign language can be allocated to a translator. There are times when a translator is the wrong person for the job.
To come up with a snappy slogan or a memorable acronym, you have probably delegated the task to a skilled person within your marketing department or even hired a professional copywriter. Many translators can Continue reading →
The fact that, after completing an MA in translation, some qualified students decide not to pursue a career in that field after all shows that even aspiring linguists can have misconceptions about translation, and that “speaking another language” is far from enough to be a capable translator.
Some students, believing that their degree in two or more foreign languages already gives them the skills required and that an MA will only Continue reading →
If the tone or content of a text can affect how you feel when reading, the work of translation goes further still as you must somehow absorb the author’s ideas as your own, feel the tone of the text and process them to recreate them faithfully. While the majority of assignments (in my case anyway) may be engaging at an intellectual level only, some documents can affect the translator emotionally too.
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?
Communication is only effective if it is clear. If your thorough translator identifies any tricky bits in your text, such as ambiguities due to vague words, confused syntax or erroneous punctuation, they will send you a list of sentences and clauses to clarify. And that’s good news: it shows that they are keen to get it right.
It is therefore worth spending time questioning your own text before publishing it or Continue reading →
Following my previous article in The Linguist, I was invited to write a double-page article on art translation – and it’s made the front page! This article demonstrates the importance of working with a specialist translator and explains what a specialist does to keep up with a constantly evolving field.
Translation being a customised service by nature, a translator cannot give an estimation – let alone a quotation – before seeing the document. They may give their hourly rate, but how many hours will be necessary still depends on the document.
Clients sometimes assume that the number of pages is enough for a translator to Continue reading →
From the client’s point of view, asking for a reduced rate on the basis of a large volume of work (several weeks’ worth) may seem like a fair request. But for the translator, quantity is not everything.
An agency once contacted me for a three-week project with a small budget. My answer could be summed up in two letters. The project manager insisted: “But it’s quantity! Three weeks is a lot of work!”. Again, my reply was simple: Continue reading →
We all like to know what to expect, so well-organised clients with generous deadlines and no surprises stand a better chance of making it to the translator’s list of VICs (very important clients). Last-minute panics, documents arriving in dribs and drabs and sudden changes are a translator’s worst nightmare. Good planning makes good friends.