Archive for the ‘Series’ Category

Changing Reality

February 22, 2012

Some people tend to see only one side of the coin. They believe what is right and that it is right what they believe. Their own reality. It does not occur to them that other people’s realities might look, feel or sound totally different.

Now, this is probably sufficient for some applications, activities or professions.

It is an absolute no go for translators.

As a translator you must be flexible enough to open your mind to other people’s ideas. You must be ready and willing to get to the other side.

For those who need specifics, the other side in this case is the reader’s mind.

Of course, translators who work this way best work for clients who are equally open to walk new and innovative paths. Both must be aware that their messages shape the reader’s reality. And translators are well advised to shape their readers’ realities in the interest of their clients…

Cross the road

Text Analysis, Instructional Texts (User Manuals / Instruction Guides)

January 23, 2012

User manuals, instruction guides, handling instructions and operating guidelines are texts where two elements are equally important. The terms and facts about the described tool, machine or software matter a lot. And, of course, the user must be able to perform a certain task with the tool, machine or software. Therefore, the needle of the Text Type Detector, T-TD, goes to upward right.

What is important when translating user manuals and instruction guides?


1::1 Approx.

August 30, 2011

the Illusion of Verbatim Translations

Translation always is an approximation. Even between languages with a very similar cultural and linguistic background some concepts remain simply untranslatable.

Therefore, the traditional idea to mirror a text word by word in a target language – i.e. what most people have been forced to do at school – does not work in the real world, especially in business reality.

If there is no exact match for a certain concept expressed in one language in the other language, what does a translator do? Well, s/he must find a way to make the situation clear to the reader in the translation. This can be done through comments, with added descriptive explanations, or by finding a similar concept in the target language.

What really matters is to evoke the same emotional and/or intellectual response to the text in the reader.

Simple word-by-word match-writing is not suitable for a professional text.

make every word matter

Translatorspeak – Part II

March 24, 2011

As explained in part one of this series, the translation industry uses its very own jargon.

Some more technical terms have accumulated in the entries since Translatorspeak – Part I:


Text Analysis, feat. the Text Type Detector

February 2, 2011

Today, I am going to kick off a new series. And I will introduce a cool little tool to you: The personal Text Type Detector, or T-TD.

I mentioned before that texts have different types. So, what does this mean for translation?
How do you grasp the type of a text? And what do you do to get it right; the transfer of the types of text from one language to another?

In my experience, all texts have three top issues to ponder, three text parameters featuring in every text. First, the author and her/his style and storyline. Second, and somewhat opposed to the first, there are the readers/users and what they should do or how they should react when reading the text. Third, there’s terminology or the literal meaning. This trinity rules every text. But, and actually we must capitalize this BUT, the weight of the three chunks varies a lot between the different types. All parameters are closely related to the purpose of a text.

Text analysis itself is easy. With the T-TD. I feed the text into this mind tool and see where the meter goes. The element that dominates a text is where the needle sticks.

Offshoring Translations

January 19, 2011

Yes, of course, why not. But like with all products or services acquired from lower-middle-income countries, some aspects need to be considered:

  • Is the price the only criterion you base your decision on?
  • Are you familiar with the translation business?
  • What do you expect from the text?

Generally, you should never just pick the first provider in, say, India or China that comes along, even though there are plenty. But then again, this is true also for language service providers (LSP) in your home country.

So, the really decisive criteria apparently are the two others. (1) ‘Do you know your way around in the translation industry’ and (2) ‘What do you expect from the text’.

If this is the first text that you need to have translated, you should be very careful who you pick. Better ask around whether someone you know can recommend a good translator or agency. Chances are higher that you will get what you want.

Which brings us to the third criterion: This is probably the most important one. Do you just want to get rid of the task without putting too much emphasis on the result? Then go ahead. Not much can go wrong in this case.

On the other hand, if you want a high-quality result and a properly managed, smooth-running translation project, you might want to proceed as follows:

  1. Pick a translator (freelance or agency) who gives you the impression that s/he cares about you, your company, and your text.
  2. Check the translator’s credentials and experience in translation in general and in the text type and subject matter at hand.
  3. Provide as much background information as possible in terms of terminology, existing bilingual texts, details on the author and the target group, etc.

And, please, beware of translators whose only reply to your initial request is: “Yes, I can do it. How fast do you need it done?”

It is better to plan translations ahead and pick your translator with care. You get better results from true professionals, whether they live and work in your own country or somewhere else.

Think globally, act responsibly

Translation Strategies

November 16, 2010

Over the past 20 years of my translation work I have discovered that there are the following strategies* to convert a text from one language into another:

Literal Translation
This is what most of us had to do in school, where we sat with our dictionaries, looking up every other word and getting increasingly frustrated. Never mind. Real translation doesn’t work like that. Results of this approach are texts copied word by word, which are not at all idiomatic in the target language. Such texts lack fluency and are generally eyed with suspicion by most professional translators. Besides, they will be immediately recognized as translations by native speakers of the target language.

You can forget this strategy right away. No one should have to suffer under literal translation.

Exact Translation (One-on-One Translation)
Well, one could point out that every translation should be exact. Yes, but how do we define exact in this case? Think about it!


Special Ops – Document Formatting

September 30, 2010

Translation basically means putting the text content of a document into another language. Most documents these days exist in some electronic format. The large majority of these electronic documents contains formatting information, which rules the layout of the document.

Since most translators today use tools to handle their translations, such as e.g. a translation memory, some source documents need to be converted into a processable format that the translation tool can accept. Only some translation tools process the text independently of the formatting. This conversion process largely eliminates formatting and other non-textual information and leaves only the translatable part (i.e. the pure text) for processing in the translation tool.

So, how does the formatting information get back into the text after translation?


The SME and the Translator

June 23, 2010

Many texts to be translated are originally written by specialists in a certain technical field, in the translating world often referred to as the SME, or subject-matter expert. Often these texts are then used or published in both language versions.

Specialists usually look back on many years of experience in the subject area that they write about. So, where and how do you find a translator to match?


What is Simplified English?

June 16, 2010

Simplified English is a term used largely in connection with machine translation. More generally, it is also called Controlled Language, since the principles can be applied to any natural language.

Controlled language was first used in aerospace technical documentation, i.e. for the manuals of airplanes and other flying craft , which often comprise several thousand pages. In essence, a controlled language is a subset of terms taken from a natural language and stripped in their possible meanings to one single meaning. Throughout such documentations, therefore, a certain word always means the same thing.

With these limitations, machine translation works fairly well: In a limited context, such as a specific technical field with limited meanings of individual words. It is evident that in these cases very restrictive rules must be applied up front to the source text. These rules aim at reducing the ambiguity of terms to establish a clear-cut terminology. The result is the controlled language, which consists of a certain limited set of approved words, each with a single defined meaning.

Another reason why such controlled languages have been developed is to render texts easier to read for non-native speakers of the language (mostly English, hence the name). Of course, both the author of such texts and the reader/translator/machine must be familiar with the approved terms and their meanings. In both languages, when it comes to translation.

clipped to work