Quick Translation Tip

We recently decided to introduce regular short blog posts that center on just one short piece of advice that can be implemented quickly and that takes less than three minutes to read.

Today's post is a simple and effective way to improve any translation.

Once you get to your second draft (printed), read every target sentence individually again. Don't look at the source text and don't worry about specialized terminology. Just read it and ask yourself: does this make sense?

Is the population of the UK really 641 million? (No; it's 64.1 million.) Is Yellowstone National Park in California? (No; but Yosemite National park is.) Is Red Bull an Australian company? (It's an Austrian company.) Our point here is: read for obvious errors that aren't linguistic but rather fact-based (easy to research and/or double-check) or somehow related to logic. Sometimes we focus so much on specialized terminology that we misspell names, places, numbers, and just commit general errors that you would easily catch if you remove the translator lens and just review the sentence as an outside reader would.  Read it again and ask yourself: does this make sense?

We've committed many of these mistakes ourselves and usually catch them on our second draft. We hope you like this quick translation tip - we'd also love to hear yours. Just leave a comment below.


MChavez on October 27, 2014 at 2:21 PM said...

Ah, those fact-based errors are a doozie! This advice reminded me of what a very capable translator did on a translation; instead of writing 1492 she wrote 1942. No spellchecker can detect that.

Actually, there are several post-translation readings that may help the translator with a more polished document, but I cannot get into them for lack of space. In the case of marketing collaterals, software or app interfaces, magazines, etc. that have graphic content and sophisticated layout, it pays for the translator to learn to look at the whole, not at sentences or paragraphs: a) Is the page well balanced? b) Are you using the right typefaces for headlines and body text? c) Is the text structure appropriate or would it benefit from breaking it into more paragraphs or reorganizing phrases into bullet points?

My point is to develop an information design mentality.

Lisa Rueth on October 27, 2014 at 11:19 PM said...

Great tip! Here's another one:

Read the souce text carefully without looking at the target text and focus on cohesion and coherence. Is there a logical order to the progression of your text? If there isn't, rearrange. Are your references clear and correct (nice examples: http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-to-avoid-vague-pronoun-references.html)? If they aren't, make them. You may also want to add references in forms of pronouns or adverbs to make it easier for your readers to follow you.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on November 2, 2014 at 8:46 PM said...

@MChavez: Many thanks for your very thoughtful comment -- we appreciate it very much. The items you list are all crucial indeed. Thanks!

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on November 2, 2014 at 8:47 PM said...

@Lisa Rueth: How fantastic -- thanks for reading and for commenting. Great link -- we just checked it out. Thank you so much for contributing to this very interesting conversation!

Lucía Narvaez on November 24, 2014 at 7:57 AM said...

Very useful advice! Love your blog, and the idea of regular short blog posts.

Join the conversation! Commenting is a great way to become part of the translation and interpretation community. Your comments don’t have to be overly academic to get published. We usually publish all comments that aren't spam, self-promotional or offensive to others. Agreeing or not agreeing with the issue at hand and stating why is a good way to start. Social media is all about interaction, so don’t limit yourself to reading and start commenting! We very much look forward to your comments and insight. Let's learn from each other and continue these important conversations.

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