Quick Translation Tip

Today's quick translation tip is simple and easy in theory, but not always that easy to do in practice.

After you have finished the second draft of your translation, try the following. Read each and every sentence in isolation without consulting the source document and ask yourself these questions: 

  • Does this sentence sound idiomatic in the target language? 
  • Would I have written this if it weren't a translation?
  •  If the answer is no, go back to the drawing board.

After all, the goal of translation is to produce natural-sounding texts in the target language that don't sound like translations. We know that it's a lofty goal, but it is possible to get there, especially if you use this approach and have ample time to think about it. That's just another reason we don't enjoy rush projects. It's always better to have more time to ponder each sentence, and we definitely think there's a direct correlation between the time allowed and the quality of the translations. What do you think, dear fellow linguists? We would love to hear your thoughts.


Michael Schubert on May 23, 2016 at 9:02 PM said...

Wholeheartedly agree – you took the words right out of my mouth! I call it the "smell test" ...

Beverly Hayes on May 24, 2016 at 10:22 AM said...

I totally agree! I know that there have been seminars through ATA that discuss the degree of change or alteration that should happen in a translation. Some seem to want to stay as close as possible to the source text, and others like to do a lot of moving around and rearranging to give the final product a better sounding flow. I believe there isn't a straight up answer for this. However, I think I am more like the latter group I just described. We as translators need to make enough changes to get the final product to sound natural and well-written, and if that means rearranging the whole sentence then it needs to happen. I do read every sentence by itself without any reference to the original, and I still end up making adjustments. But that's all good! If many of our clients really understood what it takes to deliver a quality product, right?

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on May 24, 2016 at 8:25 PM said...

@Michael: Many thanks--love the smell test concept. Very true indeed! Hope you are well and see you in SF in November, if not sooner (Death Valley bike rides?).

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on May 24, 2016 at 8:27 PM said...

@Beverly: Thanks for your lovely and insightful comment. Yes, it's all art and very little science, isn't it? Many clients do understand how much goes into it, while others don't and ask you to "just type it up in the other language." :) However, we have to continue working on client education to perhaps, at some point, change that. How great that you end up reading every sentence by itself. The work of a true professional!

Ravi Ranjan on September 16, 2016 at 11:24 PM said...

There's nothing to disagree upon! :)
It's true that most of the translators translate each and every word without checking whether the sentence sounds idiomatic or not and time could be a reason for that.

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