Tim-Burtonesque Project

It sometimes takes more than translation for a project to be understood abroad. Understanding your reader’s culture is equally important. A translator may be able to make you aware of cultural issues in your text, but your marketing team needs to do its homework too.

Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas is an excellent illustration of cultural misunderstanding. Skeleton Jack, from the Halloween world, accidentally discovers the Christmas world and Continue reading

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From Dream to Reality

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

Shed a Little Light

I have recently started to work on an ongoing multilingual project (an online art-collection management tool) which is proving a challenge for everyone in the team due, amongst other things, to the end client’s lack of experience with translation projects.

As an online tool, the platform only has occasional sentences in isolation, the bulk of the work consisting of section of field headings, i.e. short stand-alone strings of words, or even Continue reading

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, Continue reading

How to be a VIC (IV): Think Ahead

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.

Think “first arrived, first served”. It may be a good idea to Continue reading

Crowdsourcing: the Secret to a Motley Translation

While crowdsourcing may seem like a conveniently cheap approach to translation, it is symptomatic of a misconception of translation as an exact science and generates a text as variegated as the crowd that produces it. Continue reading

Keeping your Text into Perspective

Contrary to common belief, the translation process is not linear. Sending documents in dribs and drabs and expecting them to be returned individually as and when they’re ready could be detrimental to the quality of the work.

I once translated a long list of independent, one- or two-sentence paragraphs for the purpose of a presentation leaflet. There was no time to ask for more background on each item, so I did Continue reading

Less is More in Translation Too

Look up a word in the dictionary: depending on what you mean, you have various possible definitions. This is true for most words in all languages, and a sentence or a short paragraph is not necessarily enough to clarify what the exact meaning of a word is. This is why context is so important for translation: it is about meaning (in context) rather than words (in isolation). As a result, the shorter the text, the more time it is likely to take, proportionally speaking, and it is therefore vital that you Continue reading