Translating is a skilled craft. There are standard tips and rules that one can pass on to new translators. Problems that may arise can and should be discussed. Creating an efficient workflow for translation projects is often achieved through experience. Here we will touch base on a few tips that may be of use to novice translators.
A starting point for any aspiring translator is that they should be either formally trained or very well acquainted with the source language, in both its written and spoken forms. This familiarity often consists of being raised in the society of the source language, living there extensively or being formally trained/educated in the source language. The importance of this can not be understated as cultural nuances need to be picked up and understood by the translator in order to provide accurate translation services that convey the meaning and intent of the message being delivered.
In spite of all the theory taught in colleges to aspiring translators, the most common errors by new translators are due to a lack of real-word translation service experience The novice translator should establish a number of procedures that will provide a kind of working template for an efficient workflow. Here are a few that from our experience in the translation industry might be helpful.
The new translator needs to read and understand the whole source text he/she is working on. The document should be appreciated as a whole, not as a sequence of phrases, sentences, and paragraphs put together to be translated without any prior introduction or knowledge. In other words, grasping the meaning and intent of an entire document of text is critical. What is the point of the content as a whole? This is a question that should be identified by the translator early on. An example of this would be when translating scientific papers that are classically arranged in four basic portions: abstract, introduction, development and conclusions. This makes it mandatory to read the entire text prior to beginning the translation process. Each segment is fully dependent on the other. For instance, translating the abstract requires previous knowledge of the article as it summarizes and guides the direction of the text.
Professional translators often believe that they are able to work on every subject with the same proficiency. It should be understood that the subject matter of the text can often relate to a specialized field. Researching and reading through material based on the theme is a great way of forming a bridge in relation to the theme and specialized jargon, word usage and phrasing. Translators should identify a field(s) they are comfortable with, interested in or educated in, and pursue those relevant translation projects.
The translated output must be natural. Rarely, unless specified early on will a client want a “literal” translation. Because of the nature of communication and languages, there are sayings and expressions that simply cannot be literally translated. A well rounded and professional translator should always approach a project with the goal of creating a translated text that sounds natural as if it was written originally in the target language and not translated at all. If the reader of the target language has no idea that the text was originally written in another language, the goal was successfully met.
A very good piece of advice for new translators is to recognize their limits. A long and complex legal text is not the same as a brochure for a luxury resort. The responsibility is not the same, and that is even more evident when lives are at stake. A translator should know their limits and fields of expertise. To work on subject matter that a translator is not accustomed to is not only a huge liability, it is also inevitably going to end with problems and ultimately tarnish ones reputation, which in the translation industry is a killer.
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