The sign of a great translation is one that does not appear to be a translation, i.e., it reads as though it were originally written in the reader's primary language. This is why, although many stellar translators can translate into their non-native language, the industry standard tends to be that professional translators will often only translate into their native language(s) in order for a text to read smoothly and without any trace of influence from other languages.
Perhaps this is the first tip in preparing your text for translation. Find a professional translator who translates into his/her native language and who specializes in the type of content you plan to write. Yes, that's right. Just as copywriters specialize in niche areas or fields, so do professional translators, editors and proofreaders.
You might think it's best to write your source text first and then find a professional translator. But I'd like to suggest that if you do the opposite, you can actually gain some insight about the target language (i.e., the language into which your copy will be translated) and how certain nuances and details in a text or on a certain topic might prove to be tricky to translate. After all, a great translation should always portray the spirit of the original message, not just the words themselves. This is why automated translation is not, and will probably never be, good enough for a professionally written text. An automated tool cannot comprehend the nuances of language. Humans can, and do.
Here are seven tips to consider when preparing your translation team and your copy for translation:
Once you discuss your goals with the translation team, it's time to prepare your copy. Think about the ideal reader of the translated text and whether the reader is demographically the same as, or similar to, the reader of your source language text. This is important in case you need to make edits to the source text before you hand it over to your translation team. Share as much information about the readers with the translation team as you possibly can. They may also be able to provide some insight on readers of the target language copy that could affect the way the copy is handled.
Write the text knowing that the translated version may be longer (or shorter) than the source text. A great example of this can be found in English to Spanish translations, as Spanish text tends to be up to 30 percent longer than English. Bear this in mind when it comes to parameters or guidelines for your copy.
Be sure to point out any idioms, nuances, etc., that you may want to talk to the translation team about before they begin the process of translation. Some may not translate well, and most will almost certainly not translate word for word from the source text. You may want to come up with a couple of choices for the translation team to work with when it comes time to translate these particular bits of copy.
Just as there is no magic formula to writing great copy in the first place, there is no magic formula to creating a superb translation. Both take time, expertise, patience and experience. So, before you send off a text to be translated, consider the points above and have a real conversation with a professional about the text. Your readers (and translators everywhere) will thank you!
Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo is owner and CEO of Accessible Translation Solutions, a company that provides peer-to-peer customer service for forward-thinking clients by helping them pioneer untapped, domestic and foreign markets so they become the top choice in their industries, while leaving their audiences feeling inspired to take action. She is a director on the American Translators Association Board of Directors and a consultant for the Graduate Certificate in Translation. Madalena also writes regularly about the business aspects of translation on her professional blog.
Madalena will also be presenting a session titled "What to know before you send your copy for translation" at the 2018 ACES national conference in Chicago, April 26-28.
Header photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash