Free Articles on Translation
So You Want to be a Translator.Reflections of a Fairly Young Translation Entrepreneur
By Edurne Alvarez December 1, 2005
About the author: Edurne Alvarez has translated from Finnish and Spanish to English since 1997. Her “home base” is in Uppsala, Sweden from where she coordinates her translation network, LINK Language Services (www.linklanguageservices.com).
Home / The How-To Library / Working as a Freelancer / How to become a translator and/or (court) interpreter
I originally began translating when working as a secretary for a tourism firm. No prior experience, no knowledge of translation. A high school education and fluent knowledge in a few languages. That is what my employer thought sufficed for translation. I did what I thought I was supposed to do. Possibly thinking that I did it fairly well. It was way before I had established my personal quality control system or used proofreaders, and before I actually knew what translating was. I don’t think I would ever want to see any of those texts today, as I would probably be mortified. I get asked a lot about the profession. Each time I attempt an answer I come up with some new aspect. I have however, come up with a few pointers that may help one to decide whether the field is for them. On the other hand, if you got this far, you’re not doing too bad. There are several great articles for beginning translators in this section, so hopefully I am able to bring in something new.Translators are writers. Contrary to popular belief, we are not machines. These days we actually need machines to help us do what we do. There are trained translators and untrained translators, some professional and some just plain crumby. There are those who feel that the only acceptable target language is the mother tongue, there are others who consider it okay to translate into their second (or even third) language. Whatever the case, translation is a creative process, and if writing is not something you enjoy doing, translation is probably not your thing. The final product reflects your writing ability at least as much as the original author’s. Translation requires an understanding of others. When you read a text to be translated, you should have some kind of idea of who your target audience is going to be. There is a difference between the language used in a speech and the language used in an article for a scientific journal. The translator’s job is to understand this difference, regardless of whether the client is or isn’t aware of this. The work that we do multiplies the number of readers of the text at hand. We all know what it feels like to read a badly written text, obviously lacking dedication from the writer. As a translator, you take the text personally. Sometimes, quality goes above profit—like when you have to consult another translator or pay for professional proofreading—and you end up on losing more than you gain. Sure, it’s unfortunate, but at the end, you will recover and at least you will be able to rest assured that you did a good job (and it won’t come back and bite you on the behind). Now that’s what I call gallant.Especially for the reason of rising quality expectations, I believe that specialization is going to be essential in the future of translation. As in so many other fields, the only way to differentiate oneself from all the others is to have your special niche, something you could be considered top in your field in, such as the mating habits of the manatee. The Internet with sites like TranslatorsCafé.com constitute the tools making it increasingly easy for clients to find just the translator they are looking for. Globalization along with the Internet has made all sorts of specialists accessible, even in the remotest areas on Earth. A good translator is inquisitive and curious. He/she enjoys reading and keeping up with the politics of the day. For in order to be able to process all the various and sundry projects that are placed before us an awareness of what’s going on in the world is indispensable, no matter how good one’s translation techniques are. In this field, being a jack-of-all-trades really does help. A healthy knowledge of different areas always provides added value to the translator’s work. My experience of translators is that they are social animals who enjoy maintaining and developing their language skills also by discussing and interacting. This also involves traveling, and not only for work assignments, but also for language maintenance. I can’t think of too many professions where an essential part of maintaining work ability involves such leisurely activities such as socializing and traveling. Generally translating as a freelancer provides a luxurious amount of freedom and flexibility that it almost makes one feel guilty. That is, if you can deal with lugging around suitcases weighed down with specialized literature and fat dictionaries much to the dismay of check-in counter workers. Sometimes, all you really need is a laptop, fast internet, and a cold refreshment. But being a translator isn’t all that all the time. The reality of it is that a lot of the time the work is grueling, thankless laboring with impossible deadlines, impatient clients and occasional bankruptcy. Often, the better you are doing as a translator the more stressful your life is. Interestingly enough, close acquaintances and even family members will still ask, after 7 years of full-time translating (and even having established your own company), what exactly it is that you do for a living and when you are thinking of “getting a real job.” So brace yourself for proofreading that takes more time than translating, and pays a lot less, extremely ill-timed computer problems, late payments. Your boyfriend’s mother surreptitiously pressing a wad of bills in your palm (for “something special”), blissfully unaware that the very same morning you have purchased a ton of posh new computer gadgets and programs.Are we the literary cowboys of the new millennium? Who knows. But being a translator—in an agency, freelancing, technical or general, Pashto or Basque—is being part of a community of creative minds, who share an amazing ability to transcend borders and make the implicit understood, everywhere. The best of luck in whatever you endeavor.
Home Sweet Home—A Mother’s Guide to a Career at Home as a Translator
By Joanna Diez March 21, 2006
About the author: Joanna Diez has a Master’s Degree in Applied Linguistics and has lived and studied in living in Poland, Germany and USA. Currently an Arizona resident, translator, mom, wife and part-time writer.
Home / The How-To Library / Working as a Freelancer / Tips for Translators
In my article I will focus on important aspects of working as a translator at a home based office. This will be a short guide to this job for translators, who have children and who, realistically speaking, are mostly women and mothers. Of course, my article also refers to male work-at-home translators who are fathers, those may please replace the words mother/wife/she in the article with the words father/husband/he and vice versa—and accept my apologies, of course.
1. Setting PrioritiesWhen you are a mom, who works at home as a translator, the most important thing is setting priorities. Of course, nobody expects you to declare if your kids or your work are the most important thing for you, but it is clear that priorities tend to change depending on certain factors. When an important project from a client comes in, the rest must wait. Organizing childcare, neglecting house chores for a while and focusing on the project become more important at this time. When workflow is slow, it is more important to focus on children, home and other errands. For a freelancer who also has a second full-time job as a mother and housekeeper, workflow tends to fluctuate due to the fact that she can’t and doesn’t want to give up all of her time to advertising, marketing, bidding for new jobs etc. Therefore a realistic approach would be not counting on a major career right away as well as a load of money after a month of translating. A slowly developing, steady base of clients and setting quality before quantity is the goal to success. If you are good, they will come back. Just keep your daily set priorities in mind.
2. A Flexible Approach to Your ScheduleYou can plan ahead, but you also have to remember that all plans can end up being useless. Reasonable deadlines are key. If there is an urgent job you would not like to refuse, ensure one or two backups regarding childcare and other issues on this day or week. If one of your children is sick or has a break from school or preschool, you may want to choose to notify a couple of clients that you will not be in the office for a couple of days and refrain from bidding on or accepting new assignments. When everything comes at once and it usually does for me, try not to let anyone down. Working odd hours, serving takeout food, neglecting the house for a few days and dumping your kids once in a while on a friend or family member won’t hurt anyone. Set up a few emergency plans. It can be helpful to write them on your wall calendar—phone numbers of friends, pediatrician, leaving weekends unplanned, even marking hectic and less hectic times of day with different colors on the calendar may help. Just remember to keep your head cool. I once accepted a big yet pretty easy assignment due in a couple of days, paid a good friend—a stay-at-home-mother—to hang out with her kids at my house all day long for a week and ended up doing great—the client was happy, the kids had playmates and my friend earned a couple of dollars for watching them.
3. A Backup PlanA backup plan can involve friend like described above. It can be a daycare nearby or your husband taking a few hours off work. When you are self-employed, there are no sick days or family days. You have to come up with your own solutions and remember if you say “no” too often to clients, they will tend to disappear. So write down a couple of backup plans in case of different emergencies, not only meaning sick kids, but also a repair guy coming to fix your roof or dealing with a problem HTML file.
4. Maintaining a Professional ImageAn office at home, especially an office of a mother rarely looks like a real office. Sometimes a kitchen table pretends to be an office and a closet has clients’ files standing next to children’s books. But it is important to maintain a professional image for your clients. E-mails and faxes always need to be written on a proper letterhead, with signature and in a proper business style. It is not enough to check the e-mail and fax twice a day and there is no excuse for that. Most clients expect a prompt and professional answer to their inquiries and remember—they live in different time zones, too. You need a separate telephone and fax line for your business. Answer your phone in a professional way and keep kids’ voices in the background to a minimum—little children can be occupied in a variety of ways, usually by playing with something quiet and/or forbidden—kitchen utensils, complicated puzzles, stickers, glitter markers while older ones actually listen when you ask them to keep quiet for 10 minutes. Keep a stash of these next to your business telephone easy to reach in a crisis situation. It’s optimal to call your clients when children are out of the house, but with incoming calls, this is not always possible.
5. Options for ChildcareThere are various options for childcare depending on the number and age of your children as well as your financial situation. The start is always difficult, because you make little or no money at all, but still try to solicit new business and build a client base. Therefore the cheapest options are best at the beginning. Working while a child is at school, using a babysitting co-op or sending your kids to a relative or friend who likes to watch them for free seem like best solutions at that point. Later, when a solid client base has been established and you depend on a steady workflow, a more stable and pricey childcare solution can be applied—a sitter, an au-pair, a daycare or after school program etc. The possibilities differ depending on the area of you residence. It is recommended to take a look at all of them, write them down and decide for a couple of the best ones that fit you shortly before you start your business.
6. Stay Cool!The most important part of this multitasking job is to convince yourself that you can do it. No two days will be the same and you cannot expect it. But keep in mind: you are a flexible, strong individual who can handle hard and long days to achieve his or her goal—financial stability without leaving your children for eight hours a day in the hands of a stranger. Enjoy!
Should I Become A Translator?
By Arthur Borges July 10, 2005
About the author: Arthur Borges has been translating and interpreting since 1989 and teaching Second Language English since 1975. He is a TC administrator and moderates the French Forum at TC.
Home / The How-To Library / Working as a Freelancer / How to become a translator and/or (court) interpreter
First off, your heart alone can answer that. I can only map out a few questions and considerations for the two of you to meditate.The next few paragraphs may amount to a tall order to someone straight out of university as well as to non-grads with all the right ingredients but give yourself a break because, if you’ve gotten this far, your heart headed you here and when you really want something and start doing something about getting there, you find allies along the way, along the same way that gives you time to fill in the blanks somehow or other.Discard concern about conforming to a one-size-fits-all profile. Good translators may come in any size, shape and color: neurotic but idealistic language teachers, laid-off factory workers, ex-army commandos in from the cold, sharp disbarred lawyers, retired physicians and poetic alcoholics. We are all human. We all have both failings and the strengths that flourish from them: you are one of us to at least some extent.Next, mercilessly strangle any noble aspirations you may have of translating enough true literature in the near term to pay bills regularly: the royalties are small change unless you do dimestore novels and better literature largely goes to academics with connections, doctorates, tenures and bibliographies of Amazonian length and Pacific depth. Most translations are intended for extremely narrow readerships, e.g. user manuals for lens polishing machines, sale contracts & commercial leases, government tenders, depositions, spec sheets and things of the like. So this begs the question of how innately curious you are. Innate curiosity is easy to measure: if you see someone in his 70s walking backwards along a park path around a lawn, do you see a loony and give him wide berth or do you feel like asking him why he’s doing that? The Holy Trinity of Translation is Language Proficiency, Specialization and Writing Skills and the ideal translator is a seriously bilingual and bicultural lad or lass with several years of work experience in absolutely any one field who writes great emails and loves crosswords, anagrams and the like.Language proficiency is about feeling comfortable in two wordworlds: have you got it or are you prepared to get it by spending at least two years in a country that speaks your source language (i.e. the language you want to translate out of)? Specialization is about hands-on knowledge of anything from basketweaving and meatpacking to phased array radar technology and offshore oil services. Writing skills is about how many different ways you can express the same thought in properly spelt and punctuated sentences. But there’s more. Documents arrive in different formats: how much of Microsoft Office can you exploit? Some terms are special to an industry or even a company: how deep are you willing to dig to find the right match in the target language (your mother tongue)? A touch of masochism helps: are you deadline-drive and able to work under pressure? Being a bit of a neatness freak helps too: are you a perfectionist about layout, spelling, carriage returns, numbering, spelling, grammar and, just before you do the final SAVE, can you go through a document to remove all the extra spaces after the periods and all the extra line feeds on the last page? Yes, the spell/grammar checker will help lots, but it suggests the occasional howler too—you have to have some personal judgment now and then.Finally, translation is as much as business as hamburger retailing: how much managerial, bookkeeping, advertising and networking skill have you got? Or willing to cultivate? Some clients studiously avoid immoderate honesty: can you go after money folks owe you like a Strella locking in an MH-47 Chinook? How easy is it to browbeat you in believing your work was gibberish unfit for printing on dried but used nappies? Some clients freak out when you use terms they’re not comfortable with: are you willing to adjust your impeccable prose and wordchoices down to someone’s expectations? Some clients feel alienated and dispossessed of their ideas when they see the reflection of their thought in the mirror of a foreign language: are you open to nurturing folks beyond their any vaguely defined concerns they fret over? Most clients will cheerfully acknowledge that it’s OK for you to know their business less well than they do but get justifiably heated up when your translation reads like pure fudge: are you brave enough to commit to paper exactly what you’ve understood in plain language, flag it as a question and cheerfully appreciate the frowns, feedback and corrections? Or are you tempted to hide your ignorance behind vague, ambivalent terms and syntax?
Language ProficiencyThis is far more than speaking one language at home and another in your environment or pocketing a degree in a given second language. Not only do different folks use different words and grammars, they also think differently, their emotions respond to different stimuli and they have different moral value systems, e.g. the French read women’s liberation along a scale of values that goes from traditional to modern lifestyles while Americans read it along a scale from slavery to freedom; chrysanthemums are suitable gifts only for dead girlfriends in France; a smaller share of European women consider adultery is grounds for divorce than American women. Your immigrant parents probably taught you such distinctions only incompletely because they’ve been adjusting their native standards to the country you were all brought up in. Moreover, languages are like flesh: they are subject to the law of birth, growth, old age and death. Immigrant parents lose contact with the evolution of their native tongue by living outside their native culture: you have to go back there for at least two years to get the hang of how folks think, act, feel, talk, gesticulate and generally operate. Or you have this degree in Tibetan from the University of Hintertupfingen that didn’t teach you any of the Chinese loanwords in the terminology of ATM maintenance training in Lhasa: you have to go there for at least two years too—who knows what China will be exporting next! But the baseline is about becoming bi-cultural: learning the mindset behind the words.
SpecializationYou get these agencies that list every discipline and language they can think of and polish off both lists with “and others”. So you sit there and do a piece of dumb arithmetic: you take the 40 languages they list, multiply it by the 40 disciplines they list and infer that they have 1,600 translators. And that’s only if they do all 40 only into English: double the figure because they are implying they work both ways and serious translators only translate into their mother tongue. Start raising that figure by a few dozen powers because the ad also implies they can mix ‘n’ match any which way: like Swahili and Urdu or Greek and Samoan and this is before you factor in the specializations. In short, get really focused, ideally, by listing one foreign language, one target language and one area of expertise. Choose the area of expertise from your job history: a smart bilingual bookkeeper should be able to translate accounting, a smart factory worker should be able to do industrial user manuals. If you’ve got a degree, check with friends with family—you have convenient, readymade mentors all around you: if dad’s a psychopathologist, if mom’s a sex worker or if your spouse is anybody’s combat diver, they are walking dictionaries and encyclopedias (fields: psychology, police/legal and military respectively). They have detailed knowledge of a trade, know their trade literature and can find out who publishes their mindfood. Target their trade literature for your ads—go down to the publishers, talk to someone who can identify which issues to advertise in: some issues are far more widely read than others. Relatives and friends with expertise can also explain the fuzzy parts of any sentences you are translating, which is critical to minimizing mistranslations. You WILL make mistakes: we only murder virtual doc files but by analogy, the more patients a surgeon has killed, the higher her/his skill levels
Writing SkillsYou have to enjoy writing. You have to enjoy playing with words and figuring out the meaning and intentions behind the words: some brilliant specialists write terribly but clients and readers will be judging you by the clarity of your translation. Although the Internet and websites like Translators Café are enabling the creation of social and professional networks whose potential is still early in the curve, translation is a lonely job and it helps if you can get playful about the words you handle: can you stop and wonder why aircraft have no wing nuts? Or why they have cosmonauts, official state atheism and censorship while we have astronauts, separation of church and state, and news management? If the Hebrew original uses the word “terrorist”, does your bent of mind translate it as “freedom fighter”? If you do that, you probably just blooped big time. Or did you add quotations not found in the original: you blooped bad anyhow.
PC SkillsTranslators are keyboard warriors: you need all 10 trigger fingers. Take touchtyping lessons with a bunch of bowheads for big bucks if you have to. Documents come in different formats based on different software: pirate or buy it and learn it (buy the real thing as soon as you can for the tech support—crashes ALWAYS happen somewhere towards the end of your document on the eve of your deadline and the lost business will erase any savings you made using pirated software). You have to have reasonably state-of-the-art versions: Windows 3.0 and Word 2.0 will not do; Windows 98 and Word 97 can maybe still get by for the output (as at July 2005) but you may have problems importing documents into Word 97 that were generated under later versions of Word and the lost enrichments may cost you repeat business. You have to have, and regularly update, your anti-virus and spyware software. Though most clients won’t ask for it, you may need encryption software—all documents from any client are confidential by definition. Even a client’s name is confidential: if your combination is Hebrew to Chinese and I know your field is electronics, give me the name of a client who just commissioned a translation system for you, I can find out what the company makes, look at which China is likely to want and perhaps become able to infer that, say, Israel is selling China another advanced air defense system that will have Washington seething, causing your client’s deal to fall through. You may also need a safe: the loss or leakage of any classified material will leave you with many-many time-consuming questions to answer, sometimes by two interrogators, one nice, one nasty. They take turns and do shiftwork on you. Room and board will be free but you may not get a window or have any control over meal times, menus, air temperature, humidity, noise levels, type of music and volume, WC/shower access or even the light switch. They take away your cellphone, MP3 and gameboy too. You will not like that. But this is very unlikely to happen to you: classified material usually gets translated in-house or goes to colleagues who already have security clearances that cost tens of thousands of dollars to get.
Living With Your CATAlso relevant are CAT tools, or computer-assisted translation software. You can still survive without it for the time being but if you have it, your chances of securing commissions improve nicely. That said, increasing numbers of agencies and clients expect you to buy that software and then use it against you to pay you a lower word rate. However, once you establish your reputation on the marketplace, you become immune to such practices: nice quality is a jewel that many clients and some agencies are prepared to garnish with at least the standard rate for your language pair(s).
Business Skills & SetupYou have to know what a purchase order is: you are a light bulb and the purchase order is what operates you: when you have one, you turn ON, without one, you sit tight in the OFF position. If you have a duly completed p/o, you stand a good chance of securing payment, if not you fall prey to the mercy of your client plus that of your unpaid landlord, heartless utility companies, unfed children, wailing housepets and various bailiffs or Federal marshals—some traditionally-minded countries do not have such officers because they send you straight to debtor’s prison.Next contact a bill collection agency or smart business owner to find out the right contents of a p/o, its various forms and how to collect payment from folks with creative payment practices. You will also feel more comfortable knowing all the rules and, if necessary, making an appointment with someone who did his best to charm you into using their services.You need to do bookkeeping. You have to invoice and track payments. You have to advertise; to advertise you have to write up the ad copy and do the graphics to sex it up. You have to socialize on the Internet, join voluntary associations—many are sponsored, patronized and frequented by prominent figures with oodles of connections to paid work: 40%+ of salaried recruitment happens through personal contacts. I don’t know the figure for freelance translations but I do know that word-of-mouth will get you the clients who pay the best rates and stand the best chance of becoming loyal customers.If you are bookkeeping drives you up the wall, you can farm that out but you have to understand it anyhow, otherwise you’re leaving yourself open to all sorts of fraud and embezzlement.
IncorporationSee a smart accountant before going into business—incorporating as a physical may not be the way to go. The consultation may be expensive but it will save you more money than you can imagine ever even earning when you’re all inexperienced and scared about taking the leap.
Power & HumilityYou incarnate the skills to package content in polished form; your client has the content. Most clients realize a good product depends on an alloy of both skills. If you can’t find a term, flag it and ask. If a sentence is unclear, flag it, translate it in the plainest way you can, add an alternate translation if you have one using the NEW COMMENT function of the REVIEWING toolbar and ask the author. There is no shame in not knowing something but everybody suffers if you try to pass off fudge for real substance. Stand your ground on style as gentle-firmly as possible but bow gracefully to client choices on terminology and, even if it means a clumsier final wording, rephrase anything s/he is not comfortable with: remember that the author has to feel confident about your product.
SecretariesHire one as soon as soon as you can afford it. Have separate phones with HOLD buttons on each. You may be able to find cut-price interns from secretarial schools. They can be better than fresh graduates with translation diplomas. But talk to each. At regular points in time, ask different friends to phone your assistant, inquire about services and ask for quotes. Have them ask your assistant ask you to call them back. Then see what happens.
ReachabilityYou have to be reachable in as many different ways as possible: email, voice & fax landline, cellphones and mobile messaging. Handwritten faxes remain the most secure medium of generally available transmission today. Telephone answering machines are only for use between bedtime and breakfast; if you sleep lightly and fall back asleep easily however, spare yourself that investment. Buy an email address: Yahoo, Hotmail and even AOL are for fly-by-nighters. Choose the account name carefully: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org will not do. Invest as much money as you can in a professionally-designed, maintained and updated website.
DeadlinesDeadlines are sacred: miss one and your market value falls to that of a monolingual kindergartener holding a freshly opened box of brand new crayons. Baby’s upset tummy that diverted you to the clinic for a whole afternoon or the broken collar bone from the morning’s football match mean the same thing: you have missed a deadline with a great excuse but just lost the customer anyhow. Agencies will invoke breach of contract and not pay: they just lost their client, right? One marketing study reports that every unsatisfied customer talks to at least 11 potential customers; another study says the 11 is 15. You may whine about their heartlessness but your name will be moaned around the office and over their professional networks. If you followed the advice to specialize, the grim news will soon start sinking in. Negotiate the longest deadline you can, but once you’ve committed to a date, honor it. Before you commit to a date, make sure you have all the assurances you need on your end to get the job done.
Help Clients Help YouAsk for background papers, glossaries, earlier editions of the same document, the purpose of the document and its context in the processes that spawned it; also inquire about intended readerships and formatting needs, e.g. pdf, doc or rtf and line numbering. Figure out your client’s personality to spot insecurities and unexpressed needs. Unless absolutely impossible, deliver your first translation in person or arrange for a personal appointment on the day of delivery when negotiating the deadline—this gives the two of you to identify problems neither of you had foreseen and to correct them on the spot. Make notes of any special needs you discover for future reference. If the client is happy when you part company, s/he is very likely to become repeat business, if only because you took a personal interest in her/him.
Free Translations‘Pro bono’ or ‘voluntary’ translations are a good way to start off. Contact your town hall and surf the Internet to identify local non-profit organizations (also called NGOs, PVOs and INGOs) that may need your services. Because they are local, you can get detailed feedback on the quality and presentation of your translations, secure job references and build up a network of professional contacts that way: all of them can connect you to paid work and they will out of gratitude sooner or later. Non-profit translation agencies are actually part of profit-driven translation agencies and they get to keep the precious contacts to paid work all to themselves—go to them only if you expect never to need to earn a living from translation. Or if you cannot use a telephone directory and PC. Moreover, you might be able to get tax breaks for free translations.
PerksThe perk is working for yourself with freedom to manage your time as you see fit, within the limits of your deadlinesThe perk is being able to live anywhere in range of the Internet. You can live in Siberia and translate for Miami or work for Hintertupfingen and live in the Himalayas.The perk is inside insight to leading-edge research, business deals, technology and whatever—and a peek at how these things are interconnecting to shape daily reality and the world around you.The perk is developing a binocular vision of the world through a deeper understanding of contrasting mindsets and value systems—the more you understand them, the more aware you become of your own.The perk is sharpening and expanding your natural curiosity.The perk is doing something you love.
The Insider’s Guide to Project Management in Translation Agencies
By Christian Arno January 26, 2006
About the author: Christian Arno is a director of Lingo24, one of the UK’s leading translation agencies. With operations in seven different countries including New Zealand, Lingo deliver translation services round-the-clock to market leaders in a variety of different sectors.
Home / The How-To Library / Translation Agencies / Tips for Project Managers
Juggling Words and PeopleYou can’t please all of the people all of the time, or so the saying goes. But as any translation project manager will tell you, that’s exactly what we attempt to do on a daily basis! On the one side you’ve got clients champing at the bit for first class translation at economy class rates; and on the other side you have a team of translators being asked to produce first-rate work—often under pressure of time—and expecting fair remuneration for their efforts. Then, as if being piggy-in-the-middle between these two wasn’t hard enough, don’t forget the friendly face of the finance director peering over your shoulder, reminding you to keep costs down so that the company stays in the black (thereby keeping project managers and translators in work!). But don’t get the impression that it’s all doom, gloom and despondency. There’s a lot of humour in the translation business—and that’s before you even start reading machine translations (always good for cheering one up in times of despair…). A quick scan of the local Council website where it talks about keenly contested “geometrical angle championships” (German translation of “angling contests”) or tells you that a particular town “lies” somewhere (translated into French as “tells untruths”), will soon have you smiling, whatever the day may bring. The fact that some companies (none of our clients, thank goodness!) blithely stick up machine translations on their websites without a thought for the often hilarious results, also provide a valuable reminder about the level of understanding of the translation process which prevails (or rather doesn’t)—none of which makes a project manager’s life any easier!
Understanding the issues So what is there to understand? To the outsider, it all sounds simple enough. Client sends text to project manager; project manager sends text to translator; translator sends translation back to project manager; project manager sends translation back to client. Easy as pie! So easy, in fact, that some clients are surprised to discover that there are dictionaries (shock horror!) involved in the process. I’ve lost track of the number of times that—daring to mention that I’d like to consult a dictionary—I’ve been asked “Goodness, don’t you know all the words—I thought you spoke fluent French?” That’s just one of a number of misconceptions held by those outside the industry. Another old chestnut is the “OK, so we’ve got the document we need translated, but we don’t need to contact the translation agency until the day before we need it”… Or the Spanish document (needed by tomorrow, por favor) which purports to be “just a couple of pages” but multiplies miraculously in cyberspace to become twenty pages. Not to mention the “oh, it’s not at all technical” text which, when it eventually sneaks its way into the Project Manager’s inbox, proves to be so jam-packed with jargon that it’s difficult even to identify the source language as English… And if all the above sounds vaguely familiar, there’s a good chance you’ll also recognize the “Friday Special” syndrome—you know, that legal document which the client has pushed around his desk all week, only to produce it triumphantly at 4 o’clock on Friday afternoon. Of course it’s highly specialised, is required as soon as possible, and they want it in Kikongo (isn’t that a dance?) and Chinese. By some freak accident of the international calendar, it just so happens to be the Chinese New Year, so you know—even before picking up the phone— that finding any sort of Chinese translator over the weekend is going to be like searching for hens’ teeth. And finding one who happens to be a legal specialist to boot, is going to make the hens’ teeth search appear an easy option. Not to mention that you’ve still got a competent proof-reader to find too… Meanwhile the kindly client, disappointed that you can’t deliver by 5.30 p.m. the same day, grudgingly accepts delivery for 9 a.m. on Monday morning, though he’s finding it hard to conceal his obvious frustration that you expect him to find out which sort of Chinese he requires (“Are there really two? Well, just choose the one that you think best…”). It’s going to be a long weekend…
Beware the “simple jobs”Another phrase which starts the warning bells ringing is: “it’s just a list of words”. Of course, thanks to Trados, SDL and the likes, lists of terminology can be fairly straightforward these days— consistency is no longer an issue, and at least you don’t need to make a list “flow” as you do with text written in a more conventional style. However, where there aren’t many repetitions and virtually every term needs to be looked up individually, a “simple” list can be a fiddly and unrewarding task, taking far longer than free-flowing text and sometimes stretching the patience of even the most forbearing translator. But the most insidious type of list are “word strings”—lists of “out of context” phrases which feature the additional “bonus” challenge of character restrictions. As anyone who’s been haunted by the spectre of character restrictions can testify, translators often have to perform a series of linguistic acrobatics to render even the simplest source sentence correctly within the specified number of letters and spaces. However, try explaining to even the most understanding of clients why you need to charge more for this and you sense immediately that even the reasonable ones reckon you’re over-egging the pudding.
Colleagues you can count onOne aspect of project management which must never be underestimated is the importance of a good working relationship between project managers and translators. Of course, this is an essentially a professional relationship, but there’s no doubt that a strong camaraderie can develop after working regularly with someone, and riding the highs (euphoria of completing a job on time to a rapturous client reception) and lows (nightmare job, nightmare client and deadline of yesterday— preferably the day before) of the translation business. The fate of project managers and the translators who work with them are inextricably linked. Translators rely on project managers to deal with many of the time-consuming administrative issues, manage (sometimes unreasonable) client expectations and to handle the multifarious queries which often pop up as work progresses; whilst project managers depend on the translator to flag up any problems or queries, produce work of (near!) perfection and deliver the final translation by the appointed hour. Make no mistake: skilled translators are the lifeblood of the industry. Indeed some appear to be veritable magicians, regularly conjuring miracles out of their bag of linguistic tricks within timescales that would appear literally impossible to those not blessed with magical powers.
Errare humanum estGood old Cicero certainly knew what he was talking about when he said that “to err is human”—and unfortunately not all clients subscribe to the theory that “to forgive is divine”. Despite the best efforts of translators and checkers and the most efficient project management in the world, mistakes can and do happen—for the translation industry is no different from any other. Fortunately complaints are relatively rare, owing to the fact that most translators are consummate professionals and to the fact that all reputable agencies have translations independently proof-read. Not that that is much consolation, of course, when you have a crazed client on the phone telling you that his German counterpart’s pet hamster could have done a better job of translating a particular technical document. The plot thickens when you speak to the translator and proof-reader who’ve worked on the job, only to hear that the source text was so poor it was probably written by the hamster in the first place, and that they’ve both done their best to make a completely incomprehensible source text rather more comprehensible in the target language. This leaves the project manager with the unenviable task of “translating” this information into suitably diplomatic terms to feed back to the client! Another helpful client is the sort who informs you that the terminology used in the 10,000 word report you’ve just had translated into French for his company doesn’t really correspond with in-house style and that his French contacts prefer the one translated by another company a few months before. Not that he mentioned a dicky-bird about the existence of the previous report when you invited him courteously—before starting work on the job—to forward any useful background material…
Getting a buzz from wordsThere’s no denying that translation project management is not without its stresses, yet it can be addictive too. It’s hard not to get a rush of adrenalin when you receive a call or email out of the blue from a high profile potential client, desperately seeking a lifetime partner to cover their massive—but incredibly straightforward—translation requirements. Granted, that particular “dream” scenario doesn’t occur all too often. But when it does, it sure helps compensate for a few of those Friday Specials!
© Christian ArnoDirectorLingo24 Translation Services About Lingo24 Translation Services—Much more than a traditional translation agency, Lingo24 Translation Services provides professional language translation and other services to blue chip companies and other translation agencies throughout the world. On time, on budget, to the requisite standard – and, generally speaking, with a smile thrown in for free!
Translating Desktop Publishing Formats: Fiendish Files and Funky Formats
By Jost Oliver Zetzsche August 26, 2005
About the author: Jost Zetzsche is an ATA-certified English-to-German translator and a localization and translation consultant. He co-founded International Writers’ Group on the Oregon coast and sends out a free, biweekly technical newsletter for translators (see www.internationalwriters.com/toolkit).
Home / The How-To Library / Computers and Technology / Software
Generally, DTP programs can be categorized into two groups: those created for design-oriented publications and those intended for content-oriented publications.In the first group are programs such as:
Adobe PageMaker (see www.adobe.com/products/pagemaker),
QuarkXPress (see www.quark.com), and
Adobe InDesign (see www.adobe.com/products/indesign). The second group is home to applications such as:
Adobe FrameMaker (see www.adobe.com/products/framemaker), and
the almost extinct Corel Ventura (see www.corel.com/ventura). The design-oriented programs provide superior graphic and font management and processing. Text is handled in individual and independent text boxes that can be placed anywhere in the application. They are typically closely integrated with graphic applications, and they offer advanced methods of prepress setup.While the content-heavy applications also offer good graphics and prepress management (albeit not as advanced as the design-oriented programs), their main focus is on the processing of text, which shows in the advanced TOC (Table of Contents) and index generation, cross-references, page break management (widow and orphan rules), an independent character and paragraph setup, and the ability to output documents in a huge variety of formats. The latter is increasingly done through a tight integration into SGML and XML.While any of these formats is, of course, directly translatable in its own environment—i.e., you can overwrite the text of a PageMaker file within PageMaker—you will have to save these formats to a non-compiled format (i.e., text-based format) to process them in a computer-assisted translation tool.
Content-Oriented Desktop Publishing Any of the content-oriented formats—FrameMaker or Ventura—offers a fairly painless way of saving the original compiled format in an interchange format that can be easily processed. Because the emphasis for these files is on text and not on graphics, text is represented in one flow, and can be saved in a simple “Save as” process for each file (which is typically synonymous for one chapter). The very concept of these programs is that there will be as much automation in the layout as possible. This is achieved, for instance, through fairly sophisticated widow and orphan rules so that there is only a small amount of additional pagination.In general, these programs are very well suited for translation. There is no problem with non-Western languages even in Western versions of the system (provided that your operating system supports it). The size of the files tends to be relatively small because graphics are usually linked and not inserted, and all of these programs are exceptional in the ways they publish and re-publish text in a great variety of formats, including HTML, XML, PDF, or RTF.
FrameMakerOpen the .FM file within FrameMaker and select File> Save as to save the file as a text-based .MIF file. Usually you do not have just one file but a number of files that are all organized in one .book file. To avoid the individual opening and saving of each file, you can use the well-liked MifSave (see home.comcast.net/~bruce.foster/MifSave.htm) to do this as a batch process for a whole book. (And it’s totally okay to ask your client to do this for you if you do not have FrameMaker on your computer.)Once all your files are preprocessed, they are supported in any of the larger CAT tools (Trados, SDLX, Déjà Vu, Transit), most of whose representatives will tell you that their FrameMaker processing is one of their strongest features—which only goes to show that FrameMaker is a very translator-friendly format. There are two differences between the way that Trados processes these files in comparison to its competitors. In Trados you need to convert the MIF files with the so-called S-Tagger for FrameMaker into RTF files before you can translate them in either Word or TagEditor. Also, Trados creates an additional file called ancillary.rtf, which contains background information that is repeated in each file. The other tools process the MIF files directly and translate the information that Trados places into the ancillary file individually for each file.
VenturaThe process for translating Ventura files is very similar to translating FrameMaker files with the exception that you need to save the files to a Ventura-specific text format rather than a MIF format. Trados is the only CAT application that supports the Ventura format (with the help of the utility S-Tagger for Ventura)—but don’t worry, there are very few translation projects in that format.
Design-Oriented Desktop Publishing Because in these formats each text block, called a story, is saved in individual text boxes from which the text has to be manually exported into an application-specific text format and re-imported if you want to process it in a translation memory program. While this is theoretically not an issue, it is super time-consuming when you have to do this for tens or even hundreds of stories in one document. This means also that even if CAT programs claim that they can process the native export format of PageMaker, Quark, or InDesign, only a few allow the batch processing of all the text fragments involved.Another time-consuming task for any of these formats is that due to text-expansion, the stories will have to be resized after translation—so you need to make sure that you take that into consideration when accepting a job or quoting for a job in any of these programs!This is not where the problems stop, though. Especially QuarkXPress and PageMaker are still very “last century” when it comes to processing multilingual text. While Unicode is a widely accepted standard and the reason why it is so easy to mix and match different writing systems on web pages and all kinds of other documents, these programs are not up to par on this. As I mentioned a few months ago, Quark has now announced that its upcoming version 7 will support Unicode, but PageMaker most likely will not because the folks at Adobe have a better choice when it comes to processing Unicode: InDesign.But let’s start from the beginning and go through each of the programs and the options that they present to translate. (This may all sound very tedious if you aren’t familiar or interested in this, but you’ll be glad to have this information when you need it.)
InDesignAs the only one of these programs that supports Unicode, InDesign makes it possible to write in all languages, even in its English version. This may not sound too impressive, but wait until we talk about its competitors. . . . After a fairly unsuccessful version 1, InDesign really gained traction beginning with version 2. Presently you will encounter InDesign files that are created in versions 2, CS (3), or CS2 (4). To efficiently translate in InDesign you will need a program that exports all the stories (the above-mentioned text boxes) into one large file that can be processed in a computer-assisted translation tool (of course, it is possible to translate directly within InDesign, but the emphasis was on “efficient”). Trados offers little plug-ins as part of all its versions of the Workbench product that support InDesign versions 2 or CS (the plug-ins are stored under C:\Program Files\TRADOS\Txx_xx\FI\IND— follow the instructions in the help file on how to install the plug-ins). Once you have installed the plug-in and opened the InDesign file, you will see a new Trados menu with all the necessary commands to export and re-import your file. The exported text can be translated either within Trados TagEditor or any other tools that support the InDesign export format. It works like a charm, and the import, once the translation is finished, works just as well. SDLX and Star Transit (with a separate plug-in) also offer the option of translating InDesign files, but again just for versions 2 and CS. SDL is working on the development of products that support CS2 files for Trados and SDLX, but these are still in the pre-beta phase. And the only way to down-save an InDesign CS2 file is by exporting it into an InDesign-specific XML format (INX) and importing this into the CS version—for this to happen you would need both versions of InDesign which is quite costly. . . So, the best bet with InDesign CS2 for now will be the filter that is offered by ECM-Engineering (see www.ecm-engineering.de). This application allows you to export into an RTF format that is supported by Trados, Wordfast, SDLX, or Déjà Vu. Napsys (www.napsys.com) also offers (a rather expensive) filter, but they only support CS2 on the Macintosh platform.
PageMakerTo translate PageMaker files (an increasingly rare occurrence as Adobe is trying to push InDesign over PageMaker), you could either use Star Transit with a separate plug-in with support for PageMaker 6-7 or a plug-in that comes with the Trados product called Story Collector for PageMaker and supports versions 6.5 and 7. To install the Trados plug-in, open the help file under C:\Program Files\TRADOS\Txx_xx\FI\PM for further instruction. Once the plug-in is installed, open the PageMaker file in PageMaker and you’ll find the command Trados Story Collector under Utilities> Plug-ins. Export all the stories into one large PageMaker-specific text file, save the original PageMaker file (important!), and translate the exported text file with TagEditor or any other application that supports the PageMaker format. The import process is virtually the same as the export and should go seamlessly. Alternatively, you can write your own macro that allows the export and re-import of all stories in and out of PageMaker. Here are some instructions: tinyurl.com/762r8.All of the above is true for Western languages and to some degree for Eastern European languages. Any of the more complex languages, however, including the bi-directional languages (Hebrew and Arabic) or the Asian double-byte languages, are flat-out not supported in the Western versions of PageMaker. Though you can purchase language-specific versions for these languages, it would make a LOT more sense to convert to InDesign and take it from there. Because InDesign and PageMaker are both Adobe products, the upgrade path is relatively easy (both in terms of purchasing a less expensive competitive upgrade version of InDesign when you already own PageMaker and in terms of converting the files).
QuarkXPressHere are a couple of reasons why I think that the prize for the Greatest Localization Stinker should easily go to Quark: I already mentioned that the English version of Quark does not support double-byte languages (which means you have to buy Korean, Chinese, and Japanese versions of Quark if you intend to work in these languages) or any bi-directional languages (Arabic and Hebrew). But even for the common FIGS (French, Italian, German, and Spanish) languages, QuarkXPress goes so far as to force you to buy the significantly more expensive Passport edition if you would like to use those spell-checkers and hyphenation rules. And if you dare to not do that, it will refuse to start if you use any default keyboard other than the English keyboard. (I grant you, it’s easy to switch your default keyboard back to the English keyboard, but it sends me through the roof every time!)OK. That being said . . .Quark is the market leader in desktop publishing so it’s not too surprising that there is decent support for different versions of Quark among the CAT tools. Star Transit offers a separate plug-in that supports the batch processing of the English (and Passport) versions 3-6 for both the Windows and Mac platforms; Trados offers plug-ins for versions 4.1-6 for English (and Passport) and version 4.1 for Japanese; and SDLX offers a plug-in for the English (and Passport) versions 4-6 for the Mac. All of these plug-ins were preceded by a program called CopyFlow (see www.napsys.com) which, just like these programs, allows for the batch export and import of text from Quark files. It may still be worthwhile to take a look at Napsys’ website—for instance, they offer plug-ins for Asian versions for Quark that no one else does. Also, users of some programs (I know of Déjà Vu but there may be others as well) are eligible for a discount on CopyFlow products.If you have the Passport edition of Quark and only work in and out of Western and Eastern European languages, you should be pretty well set with the help of any of the tools mentioned above. If you only have the (cheaper) English version, you need to make sure to ask your client to save the file as a “Single Language” file in case he uses the Passport edition—otherwise you will not be able to open the file.For Middle Eastern languages, there are plug-ins that can be used with the English or Passport versions (www.arabicsoftware.net) so you should be able to work with those languages as well. It becomes much more hairy with the Asian double-byte languages. While the Japanese version 4.1 is supported by the Trados plug-in and several others by CopyFlow, it at least means that you have to have several versions of Quark for different languages, plug-ins, and platforms.So, again, the easiest would be to convert to InDesign, right? Well, not so fast, my friend. Don’t forget that Quark has just been awarded the Greatest Localization Stinker award, and true to its form it makes it very difficult to convert to InDesign. Adobe obviously has tried to allow for a conversion from Quark documents into InDesign and has actually published a guide on how to do it at: www.adobe.com/products/indesign/conversion.html. The problem is that the only version where that is possible is Quark 4.1. Both Quark 5 and Quark 6 have proprietary formats that InDesign cannot get to. While it is possible to down-save from Quark 5 to Quark 4.1, it is not possible to go directly from Quark 6 to 4.1. Instead, you need to first save to 5 and then to 4.1. Unfortunately, hardly anyone owns version 5 because it was not a good version and even Quark lovers rejected it. Not good.So what all this ends up meaning is that translations involving Quark and Asian languages are often done without the aid of computer-assisted translation tools and, once they are done, often saved as EPS files and then placed into an English Quark file. While to the outside spectator this may look good, it isn’t, because even minor changes will cause great headaches.
Articles from www.translationdirectory.com
How To Get Published: Eight Surefire Steps For Writing Success
By Andrea Rains Waggener,novelist and book author, the creator of the Novel Writing Made Easy System,U.S.A.http://www.writinghelppartnership.com/
How to get published? That’s the big money question for writers. Writing is fulfilling in and of itself, but every writer ultimately wants to learn how to get published. A lot of writers think getting published is a matter of luck. Or it’s a matter of knowing the right person. Or it’s a matter of simply being born a brilliant writer. Although all of the above will help you get published, you don’t have to have any of these things. You can LEARN how to get published. When you follow The Eight Steps Success Plan For Writers, you’ll no longer wonder how to get published. You’ll BE published. Here’s The Eight Steps Success Plan For Writers: 1. Create a successful writer’s mindset. To have a successful writer’s mindset, you must know where you want to go with your writing. A goal of getting published isn’t enough. You must have a laser-focused intention. Use visualization to keep that intention at the forefront of your mind. You must also take an inventory of your beliefs about writing. Any negative beliefs about writing will get in the way of your publishing success. Turn any negative beliefs to their opposite and make them positive beliefs that will serve you. Once you have your intention, which you nurture with visualization, and your positive beliefs, you’ve established a success mindset that will help you get published. 2. Develop the habit of journaling regularly. Journal writing isn’t just for memoir writers. Every serious writer MUST keep a journal. It is a tool that will improve your ability to notice the events in your world. Good writers are good observers. It is also a tool that helps you mine your emotions and thoughts. Writing is revealing. If you don’t understand yourself, your writing will seem flat and uninteresting. Get to know yourself, and you create a goldmine of emotion and thought that will make your writing rich. Creating rich prose is a key to how to get published. 3. Practice writing daily. The other way to improve your writing daily is by doing a daily practice. Writing is like playing a musical instrument. You must practice in order to improve. The easiest writing practice to do is timed writings. Choose a length of time (at least 5 minutes; more is better). Set a timer and just write. The only rule to timed writings is don’t stop for any reason. If you can’t think of anything to say, write, “I can’t think of anything to say.” But KEEP WRITING! The flow of words limbers up your creative pathways. 4. Understand your strengths and weaknesses and write to your strengths. Every writer has specific strengths and weaknesses. For example, my style is spare and direct. I wouldn’t do well as a literary fiction author. I am better suited for genre fiction and direct nonfiction. Discover what you do well as a writer and be okay with what you don’t do well. When you know yourself as a writer, you can choose the projects with which you can have the greatest success. 5. Write with feeling. Writing is all about emotion. If your writing lacks emotion, it will be flat and uninteresting. You must know your own feelings about what you’re writing, and you must also know what feeling you want to evoke in your reader. Keep these emotions in mind as you write. 6. Fill your writing with just the right details. Detail is essential to great writing, but too much detail can bury good writing under a layer of distraction that turns the writing dull. When you learn to create the perfect balance of details—just enough, but not too much, you become a writer who can easily get published. You can choose the perfect details by knowing what it is you want your reader to focus on. For example, in a scene with a man and a woman in a bar, you could focus on the details of the brawl going on behind them or you could focus on the details of their fingertips touching. If it’s an action story, you’d choose the brawl. A romance story would be better focused on the fingertips. Some writers try and describe everything in a scene in great detail. This just bogs down the writing. Choose details carefully and then describe them well. 7. Make your writing hypnotic. “Hypnotic writing” is a term created by author, Joe Vitale. It’s a wonderful term that explains how a writer must be able to write in a way that grabs and holds a reader. You must have the ability to mesmerize your reader. You create hypnotic writing with the use of short phrases, the use of rhythm, and pacing. You also create it with perfect word choice and a constant awareness that your writing must be for the reader. Understand that the reader always has in mind as he or she reads, “What’s in this for me?” When you write with that awareness, you can make word choices that will make your writing hypnotic. 8. Always have a writing plan. An absolutely essential element of writing success is motivation. You must be able to stay motivated to start and finish your writing projects. Many writers fail for lack of motivation. Procrastination and writer’s block are two common writing career killers. You can avoid both procrastination and writer’s block by always having your projects planned out. Create a short term and a long term plan. List the projects you want to do this week, this month, and this year. Once you’ve created the list, get out your calendar and make a schedule for how you can complete your projects. Creative people have a tendency to resist structure, but the irony is that structure can actually enhance creativity. So be willing to structure your writing time. That’s it – The Eight Steps Success Plan For Writers. These steps are not a quick-fix publishing solution. They won’t turn you into J.K. Rowling overnight. But The Eight Steps Success Plan For Writers will, if you work the steps diligently, turn you into a quality writer. It is also the foundation of how to get published. About the Author: Andrea Rains Waggener, J.D., novelist and book author, is the creator of the Novel Writing Made Easy System. Her writing help includes 3 Free Reports on how to avoid common writing mistakes and how to avoid writer’s block and Weekly Writing Tips. Source: www.isnare.com Permanent Link: http://www.isnare.com/?aid=156255&ca=Writing
Translators’ Attitude to Badly Written Texts: Freedom and Limitations
By Omar Jabak,
Binnish, Idlib, Syria
It stands to reason that translators should be responsible for and faithful to source texts. Sometimes they face badly written texts containing grammatical mistakes such as wrong choice words, misspelled words and the like. Similarly, some other poor texts are crammed with swearwords, misstated facts or misleading overgeneralizations. In such situations, the translator should interfere to improve these texts by setting right what is wrong because it is his/her ethical and professional duty to convey correct information. However, as translators must be faithful and impartial, they are not permitted, under any circumstances, to alter the content of source texts.
Professional translators should be expert linguists who know quite well the correct grammar of both the source language and the target language. Consequently, when they spot any grammatical mistakes in the source written text which they are about to translate, it becomes their ethical and professional duty to correct these mistakes. If they do not do that, they not only distort the meaning of the source text, but they also jeopardize their career in the long run. For example, if a professional translator is to translate an Arabic text into English, and there happens to be a grammatical mistake in the source text, he/she must correct it before translating the text. An invented example of this might be the following Arabic sentence dharaba arrajulu alwalada, which corresponds to the English sentence: the man hit the boy. Let us suppose that in the source Arabic sentence, there is a slight grammatical mistake in the diacritical marks or diacritics, and the Arabic sentence reads dharab arrajula alwaladu, which is equivalent in English to the boy hit the man. We notice that the meaning in both English sentences is quite the opposite. Similarly, spelling mistakes or word choice mistakes in English may completely change the meaning of a given sentence. An invented example of this type of mistake might be in the sentence: he took his usual bath, where the word bath is mistakenly used instead of path. By the same token, mistakes in the choice of words which are either synonyms or closely related words should also be spotted and corrected by the translator. Let us consider these advertisements:
Advertisement for donkey rides, Thailand:
Would you like to ride on your ass?
Doctor’s office, Rome:
Specialist in women and other diseases.
(Frankie’s ESOL Worksheets, Whoops!, (2005) Available: URL: http://www.geocities.com/frankie_meehan/FunnySigns.htm )
If translators overlook such errors in the source text and decide not to correct them, then they choose to part with both their ethics and professionalism.
Moreover, professional translators sometimes feel they are under moral constraints to use a refined language when they translate passages littered with swearwords or vulgar phrases. Of course, the translator realizes that the target audience or readers will be offended by hearing or seeing too many swearwords. Accordingly, he/she should reduce the number of these words into a somewhat presentable string of polished, formal equivalences that give, more or less, the same effect as the source phrases and sentences. For instance, if the translator is translating an Arabic text, and then he/she comes across some sentences full of swearwords, he/she can put these into one short sentence like the following invented sentence: the speaker here uses a lot of cusswords to show extreme anger. This manipulation on the part of the professional translator shows a greater respect for the target audience and culture. Likewise, the translator may annotate his/her translation of a source text if it includes significant dates and events not recognized as such by the target audience. An interesting example of this strategy is a piece of writing in Thinking Arabic Translation (James Dickins et al 2002, 50). The Arabic text talks about an event with dates that are recognized by most Arabs because of its significance. However, to do justice to the target text and audience, a good translator should add some explanation to his/her translation to make the text clearer. The source sentence is “walaqad harabnahu wantasara alayna, thumma harabnahu wantasarna alayhi fi 6 oktobar.” (2002) The English equivalence to this sentence is: he fought and defeated us, and we fought and defeated him in 6 October. Before doing any translation, the translator can add some dates to the original text to make it more intelligible for the target audience. Eventually, he/she may say: walaqad harabnahu wantasara alayna fi (1967), thumma harabnahu wantasarna alayhi fi 6 oktobar (1973).
Another situation where the translator has to interfere to improve a badly written text is when the text presents factual errors either because of a lack of knowledge or because of an oversight. In either case, the translator must correct these errors as it is his/her duty to convey facts as they are, or else the target audience will not forget or forgive that. In this respect, Newmark (1981) observes:
When extra linguistic reality is wrong in the source text, the translator must say so. Misstatements must be either corrected or glossed. This responsibility is more important than monitoring the quality of the writing in the source-language text. (1981, 128-129)
Let us suppose that the source text contradicts a proven scientific fact, and the translator is aware of such an error. He/she should first get this error corrected before he/she embarks on his/her task. An invented example of factual errors might be as follows: no one knows for sure what the hardest natural material is, and the translator knows that this overgeneralization is scientifically untrue because diamond proves to be the hardest material. Such errors must be corrected. Another invented example might be the following: before America was discovered, there were no people living there. A good translator should not translate this sentence before questioning its historical validity and thus correcting it, unless he/she lacks both historical and professional knowledge. Whenever translators are unsure of the accuracy of the ideas expressed in a given text, they have to do a lot of research and set right what is wrong in order to convey only accurate information.
Just as there are specific situations where the translator has to amend a badly written text, there are also limits to the translator’s intervention as he/she must be faithful and impartial to the original text. In this respect, translators should not aspire to improve the content of any text, omit or add anything when especially they do legal translation. Catriona Picken (1983) suggests:
At the other end of the scale, there are some types of document which require rigid translation of the original, omitting and adding nothing. Legal texts belong to this group and patents. In such cases the translator has the minimum of freedom. (1983, 93)
To conclude, it can be said that translators should correct grammatical mistakes, wrong word choices and other linguistic defects in a badly written source text. They should also polish the translation of texts which include swearwords and take note of any omission of dates or distortion of facts because it is their moral and professional duty to translate correct information. Yet, translators should not change the content of source texts no matter how they feel about it.
Mehan.F 2005 “Frankie’s ESOL Worksheets, Whoops! That’s what I meant! English Language Errors around the world”, Available: URL: http://www.geocities.com/frankie_meehan/FunnySigns.htm/ (Accessed:2006,November21)
Newmark.P 1981/1988 Approaches to Translation, Hemel Hempstead: Prentice Hall, pp128-129
Picken C 1983 The Translator’s Handbook, Dorchester: Dorset Press, p 93.
London, quoted in ((newspaperالشرق الأوسط in،فكرة. September1995 6مصطفى،أمين
Dickins J et al 2002 Thinking Arabic Translation: A course in translation method: Arabic to English, Oxon: Routledge, p50
Céline’s 10 Tricky Situations Translators Might Find Themselves In and How To Get Out of Them
By Céline Graciet,Brighton, UNITED KINGDOM www.nakedtranslations.com
Being a freelance translator isn’t just about having the ability to take language from one culture and turn it into another. As I allude to elsewhere in this blog, there are aspects of this career which require negotiation skills and business awareness. When you start off, for example, or have a new agency contact you promising a juicy contract, it can be tempting to bend over backwards to get the job. Experience has shown that there are a few important issues to consider before taking on a new job/client and I’ve put them together below. This is shamelessly inspired by Mark W. Lewis’s Top 10 Lies told to Naive Artists and Designers (via lifehacker) and is called Céline’s 10 Tricky Situations Translators Might Find Themselves In and How To Get Out of Them.
1. “We’ve a got a huge project coming in next week. Make sure you don’t take on any work in the meantime.”If you haven’t received a purchase order specifying timescales, wordcount and price, do take work in the meantime. A lot of projects get delayed and even cancelled, and you might find yourself twiddling your thumbs and regretting turning down other jobs.
2. “You need to take a free test so we can make sure we want to work with you.”If you’ve got experience and credentials (nevermind references), surely this demonstrates that you are a seasoned professional who can be trusted to do a good job. If you’re a beginner, be careful. What some unscrupulous agencies might mean is “Do a section of this for free, we’ll put it together with all the other “tests” we’ve sent round and voilà! Our project is done for free”. However, don’t dismiss all tests that agencies may ask you to do. I agreed to do a free test this year because the person who wanted to work with me sounded extremely professional, was offering interesting projects and didn’t haggle over rates. This has turned into a mutually beneficial work relationship. Trust your gut feeling on this one.
3. “We’ve got this 2,000 word really easy document to translate, can you deliver tomorrow?”Before agreeing to deliver a translation at a certain time, even verbally, you must have a look at it. The 2,000 words might magically turn into 20,000 words (it has happened to me) and the “really easy” prose may be full of technical jargon that only 8 years of study in space science could prepare you for.
4. “Hello, we’re agency X calling out of the blue and we’re great, can you do a translation for us?”Maybe. First of all, ask for their details and carry out a quick Internet check to make sure they actually exist. Next, use translators’ lists on payment practices to ask colleagues whether they’ve worked for that agency and what their feedback is. Lastly, trust your gut feeling: is the tone of the email/phone call professional? Do they mention terms? Do they give details of the project?
5. “Lower your rate for this job and we’ll give you much more work.”No self-respecting professional would try and get another professional to cheapen themselves. You won’t be respected as a translator by devaluing your own work.
6. “Hi, we’ve got this 5,000 word document, but there are lots of brand names and repetitions in it, so can you not charge us for those words?”Of course, no problem. I just won’t include those words in my translation, and you can just add them yourself after delivery. Seriously, a text is an entity, and it is not practical or fair to ask a translator to not charge for certain words just because they appear more than once. We still have to type them, and they’re an integral part of sentences. Besides, “can” might well appear lots of times in your document, but just because I translated it a certain way the first time I came across it doesn’t mean that it should be translated in the same way in its subsequent occurrences.
7. “Your rate is too high. We normally pay our French translator xxx.”One colleague’s rates and business practices are nothing to do with me. I charge a fair rate, which allows me to live decently and stay in business. Lowering my rates might mean having to take on another job, which would impact on the quality of my translations, or stop translating altogether and chose a more lucrative career.
8. “A Purchase order? We don’t do purchase orders. Don’t you trust us?”Business relationships aren’t personal relationship and have to be regulated so that both parties agree on some basic terms. A purchase order protects the client (you’ve signed a paper specifying when and how you’ll deliver your translation) as well as the translator (you have proof that you got commissioned to do work in case of payment delays or problems).
9. “Our proofreader has been through your translation and has spotted lots of mistakes. You must do the translation again.”Can you please send me the proofread translation with annotations from the proofreader? I am fairly certain I sent you a decent document and I would like to discuss any problem that arose at the proofreading stage before I accept to redo the translation.
10. “We can’t pay you because the end client hasn’t paid us yet”This is none of my business. My business relationship is with you, not the end client. If you agree that I delivered a quality translation on time, then stick to the terms of our agreement and pay.
The article was originally published at: http://www.nakedtranslations.com/en/2006/10/000689.php