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The Do’s and Don’ts of Translating

February 12, 2009 2 Comments »

Several colleagues who spend day after day, week after week toiling as editors- that is, correcting translations day after day, week after week– and I have gotten together and after much discussion, we have set down this list of guidelines and suggestions that we feel will be very useful for translators, especially the newer ones… or maybe not.

1. Dictionaries don’t bite. Especially ones online. Do us and do yourself a favor and use them. If you’re not sure of a word’s meaning, look it up! If you are sure, double-check it!

2. Follow the instructions. If the client (or whoever gave you the job) tells you to use certain words or a style that you don’t particularly like, do it anyway! The client is always right. And the boss… (That goes without saying)

3. We are sorry to report that the translator cannot choose the project’s topic, type of file, inclusion or deletion of tables, images, etc., so translate what’s in front of you, don’t turn in the project that you wish you had been given. If there are tables, translate them. If there are images, include them. And if they have text… (Figure it out?) Translate it!

4. There are expressions that you love. Understandable, we all do. It’s like your worn out jeans that fit just right and we keep using despite the holes and the fact that they’re falling apart… Well, when you are writing your autobiography, use these expressions as much as you like. But while you’re translating, please use the correct expression, and try not to use your favorites ad nauseam. (There are times when something is just “about,” not “regarding,” not “concerning,” etc.)

5. There are some writers who are “ugly” editors, we know. Sometimes the source text even comes with errors. The translator’s task is not to improve on the original, but rather to provide a good translation. Seems obvious, but not everyone gets it. Just to make sure we’re clear: what you should do is TRANSLATE, not make the source text prettier in its new language…

6. To err is human and to edit some errors is not divine. Please, reread what you write: make sure it doesn’t say the opposite of what the author said. Make sure commas are where they should be, if one is missing, if an s got skimmed over, if a preposition got left out, if the verb is in the wrong tense… Ah! For those who haven’t yet heard, Word has a little tool called “spell check.” Use it! Although it doesn’t work miracles, it always helps.

7. To wrap things up, a small piece of advice. We know that it’s hard to do this while simultaneously doing all the other things that have to be done while working: checking email, chatting, texting, talking on the phone, keeping an eye on the TV (don’t deny it…). But please, pay attention to what you’re reading (and translating).

8. And last but not least: THINK. Use that wonderful thing known as a brain. And when all else fails (dictionaries, forums, glossaries, more clear-headed colleagues..) and you feel that there’s nothing you can do, that you’re on the edge of a breakdown, that you can’t go on another minute, please, for your sake and ours: QUIT! Quit using the computer, quit translating, QUIT!

Well, quit working for a while: go outside, have some tea, clear your mind and come back later.  And although this advice is valid, please don’t take the comments too seriously…

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2 Responses to “The Do’s and Don’ts of Translating”

  • Commented on February 28, 2009 at 10:10 am

    Hi,

    I’m going to recommend this post to my friends. Good information and good writing. Thought even I should share some information with you. Have a look at http://www.translationartwork.com , these guys have mixed art and translation. Unique concept.

  • Commented on February 28, 2009 at 3:10 am

    Hi,

    I’m going to recommend this post to my friends. Good information and good writing. Thought even I should share some information with you. Have a look at http://www.translationartwork.com , these guys have mixed art and translation. Unique concept.