Recently, the American Translator’s Association reposted on their social network two pamphlets aimed at helping people understand the processes involved in translation and interpretation. This article will deal with a few tips the ATA recommends with regard to translating documents, along with our own suggestions.
Who can translate?
In the United States, there are many bilinguals. Many of these bilinguals include those who learned a language at home, and others who learned a language while living abroad, some for an extended period of time. This alone does not qualify someone to translate, nor to edit translations. To do so professionally requires specific education in grammar and usage in both the source and target languages. On top of that, a professional translator should have training in the actual act of translating: how the process works, different methods of retaining original meaning, and how to use translation memory. As convenient as it is to have in-house bilingual staff translate or check translations, be aware of their limitations in this regard.
If your organization uses specific terminology, and it is important that this specific terminology be used throughout the translated document, there are a few things you will have to do to ensure you get the translation you need. The first is creating and submitting a glossary to the translation company. Compile a list of the terms and the translation of those terms that you use in your organization, preferably in an Excel spreadsheet, using two columns side by side. This will not only help in the use of the correct terms, but it will also provide for consistency throughout the document. Another thing you can do is provide previous translations your organization has used and is currently using. This will tell the translator what specific terms you use and the style you’re looking for.
Edit and internationalize the text
First and foremost, make sure that your document is complete, accurate, and free of errors. In some cases, like with brand names, it may be difficult for a translator to tell if something is an error and should be changed, or if it should be left as is. Also, some texts can be altered in order to make for an easier transition during the translation process. The ATA says to avoid things like culture-bound clichés, and metaphors involving sports and literature. A major problem we’ve seen in this regard involves things like addresses and phone numbers. If a document is meant for international distribution, keep in mind that in order to contact personnel within the US, you’ll need to include information like international telephone codes (for the US, that’s 001) and country specification in addresses (United States of America).
Be specific as to what you want translated
When you submit a document and you request a translation of everything, it should come as no surprise that that is what you will get: a translation of everything on the document. However, many documents include headers and footers with the name of the organization, the title of the document, the version number of the document, and the word “page” next to the page number. In some cases, all of these things require translation; in other cases, they don’t. Communication is key.
You can find more of the ATA’s recommendations here: