Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Back on Track

June 6, 2011

Hello again. Sorry for the long interruption in my blog entries. First, I had to tackle a rather complex project involving GUI localization. There was lot of pre-existing client terminology involved that needed alignment and checking. Then, I needed a brief vacation.

From the latter I brought something back for you: The funny side of wrong translations.

While the English and German versions on the first sign became somewhat clear in the context (there was a huge fenced-in construction site next to the sign), I never really grasped the meaning of the second. I just liked it a lot and laughed heartily for quite some time after taking the shot. The sign stood in a window next to the entrance of an Asian restaurant in Rome. I never saw anybody walk in…

Until soon


No Questions Asked

October 5, 2010

Some translators work like secret agents or as if they were trading contraband.

They quietly receive the source text from the client, confirm the client’s deadline without hesitation, let themselves be drawn into haggling about the price and then keep absolute radio silence until delivery.

Weird, hm?

When s/he works in a professional way, your translator should act like your family doctor. S/he should carefully inquire where it hurts and and when and how. Your translator should be as inquisitive and interested in your case as your trusted lawyer. Translators should do everything to protect their clients from linguistic harm.

In translation terms, translators should ask their clients everything there is to know about the text and the client’s desires surrounding the text. They must at least find out what the text will be used for, by whom, when and where.

If they don’t, accurate translation is not possible.

One Year Translation Blog

September 1, 2010

In August last year I started writing this blog. Now, over 35 entries later, much has been said about how translation and the translation business work.

The highlights (and the most visited entries) are:

Very popular entries are:


My personal favorites:


When you are on the blog main page use the Categories navigation on the right to find topics of interest to you or just browse the blog with the Older entries link at the bottom of the page. On the individual entry pages there are links to the previous and next topics right above the entry.

Of course, the Translation Blog will continue and I will keep up the work and the spirit.

thanks for reading


April 8, 2010

To emphasize the importance of meaning in translation, I would like to quote the language philosopher H.P. Grice’s Conversational Maxims for optimum quality, quantity, relation and manner of conversation:

  1. Do not say what you believe to be false.
  2. Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence.
  3. MakeĀ  your contribution as informative as is required for the current purpose of the exchange.
  4. Do not make your contribution more informative than is required.
  5. Be relevant.
  6. Avoid obscurity of expression.
  7. Avoid ambiguity.
  8. Be brief.
  9. Be orderly.

You could also call this the translator’s maxims

Who Writes the Source Texts?

March 3, 2010

is any odd text suitable for translation?

Theoretically, yes. However, it depends on what purpose the text has and what the translation is planned to be used for.

Sometimes, texts are submitted for translation before they are ready. (more…)

International English

February 19, 2010

You probably heard about this type of English. You will probably be surprised to read that no one speaks this language.


Aren’t There Machines Already That Do Translations?

January 20, 2010

There are. In science fiction and in our dreams.

Wikipedia Image

Well, seriously, machine translation is an idea that’s been around practically for several decades now. Unfortunately, it is still in the research and development stage, although some pretty intelligent engines are already available and in use.

However, it appears that language is among the most sophisticated inventions of the human mind. Therefore, machines still can’t do it properly.


The Free Test Translation

October 1, 2009

This is a very frequent request by clients: “Please translate this text as a test for us to evaluate” or “Please analyze this translation whether it requires proofreading or revisions”.

A little rule of thumb:

A translator who agrees to do free work usually is not confident enough in his/her skills to insist on adequate payment for his/her services. So why would anyone trust such a translator to do a good job?

If you want to evaluate the quality of a translator’s work up front, ask for credentials with relevant samples. Most professional translators have a collection of client-authorized sample projects that they will be happy to provide on request.

Good service has its price. So, please don’t humiliate your translator by asking him/her to do unpaid work.


Translator or Interpreter – Who is Who?

September 17, 2009

Strangely enough, these two professions are often confused by people who are not in the language profession.

Actually, sometimes when I tell someone that I am a translator by training I get lifted eyebrows, a knowingly high-pitched voice and a surprised: “Oh, interesting! An interpreter! That always sounds so fascinating in these live-TV translations.”


Well, maybe also in this case, a picture is worth a thousand words:


So What Is This Translation Business All About?

August 19, 2009

Language is culture. In fact, the cultural backpack of every language is so vast that most people who know only one language are not even aware that they carry it around with every sentence they say.

A translator, therefore, must be an expert of at least two cultures, because the culture behind a language largely influences the meaning of each set of words. (more…)