Translating Chinese Whispers

We all know the hackneyed expression “lost in translation”. Yet, some seem to expect translation to work like an exact science.

I was recently working on an exhibition catalogue and one of the texts, written by a German artist, had been translated into English for me to translate into French. Not having been offered to see the German text, and my German being limited anyway, I had to Continue reading

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Consolidate Your Files

If your translation project consists of multiple small documents, it may make sense to you to send these small pieces as they are to your translator, but bear in mind that it will take longer and incur a project management fee.

As we all know, switching between tasks increases the time it takes to complete them all. Consequently, Continue reading

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

Forget Magic and Telepathy

Some translators are not so keen on working with direct clients (as opposed to agencies) partly because clients are not always familiar with the translation process. I see this as an opportunity to help people better understand, and therefore appreciate, what we do rather than see translation as a mere commodity (a view largely reinforced by most agencies).

Discussing the project is crucial for both parties , or 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

Give us a Break

A client recently asked for a job to be done urgently. Since ‘urgent’ means little without a specific date, I asked what the deadline was. There was no deadline. There is a different between need and want. By saying it’s urgent, you are putting the translator under time pressure, and as with any kind of work, any unpleasant condition must Continue reading

No Tricks, Just Treats, Please!

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

No Blind Quotes, No Surprises

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

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

How to be a VIC (III): Send your Documents as Editable Files

To keep your translator happy and be one of their VICs (very important clients), it is best to send editable versions of your documents so that they can focus on the content without spending time and effort on recreating the formatting.

Most of us only have one screen on our desk. Working on a non-editable file means having two documents on one screen: the source text and the target one side by side. This makes it hard to Continue reading

How to be a VIC (II): Does Your Text Make Sense?

This second post on how to be a VIC (very important client) addresses the quality of your texts. Vague (generic words, clichés, lengthy sentences) or poorly written (incorrect grammar/punctuation, etc.) documents are confusing and hair-pulling sessions slow your translator down. We love our work and we do like a challenge, but we’re not so keen on headaches. Painful translations do not get priority.

If no one Continue reading