Being able to communicate a message to people across the globe and be understood is something every business owner dreams of. That’s why many turn to agencies to translate their marketing materials. But if you’ve never worked with a translation services provider before, translation tips and best practices will come in handy to get the best out of your investment.
And it’s not only businesses that need these services. Bloggers, writers and students need translations as well. But before you consider sending a piece of content to a translator, make sure you look at it deeply and go over your writing to make sure it’s suitable for translation.
What is Writing for Translation?
Writing for translation is different from regular writing, and it might be hard to understand this concept until you experience living in a bilingual culture.
Native speakers often use phrases that are either not understood at all or are seen differently from what was initially intended.
But translation is not just about changing the words of the source document into the equivalent words in the target language. It is infinitely more complex than that and requires reading up on translation tips to smooth the process.
And to ensure that the text makes sense in the end as well as to avoid awkwardness and uncertainty in communication, one has to remember at least seven translation tips before starting work on this task. So check out these seven translation tips for better results.
1. Keep it short
The first of our translation tips is to keep your text short. The rule is that the shorter the text, the smaller the chances are to make a mistake or to mislead the translator. Your goal should be writing sentences that are 20 words or less.
If you can cut some words out of your sentence without changing its meaning, then these words are useless. Following translation tips like removing unnecessary flab out of your wording will do wonders for your project.
When choosing content for a short but informative piece, one has to remember that it is not about compression only, but also about the perfect selection.
There online resources like the Hemingway app that are useful in this case. The application explains which sentences are hard to read and which ones are extremely difficult to go through.
So removing some of them or breaking them in several parts can be the ideal solution. It will improve the overall readability level of your text and ensure that all your ideas are understood the right way.
Aim for eighth grade readability for the best results and improved content quality.
Related Post: 5 Cool Writing Apps to Perfect Your Translation
2. Unify the Vocabulary
Whatever the content is about, the author needs to create a single vocabulary for it. For instance, there might be eight great synonyms for the word “development.” But it is not a good idea to jump from one definition to another. Translation tips like these will come in very handy if you want an accurate text in the target language.
Choosing one term and sticking to it throughout the text eliminates confusion and prevents misunderstandings.
Therefore, before diving into the topic, take some time to analyze the most frequently used words and unify the terms for them.
Without boring you to death with examples of how this can be done, let’s just say that having a unified vocabulary is crucial for quality writing for translation.
3. Use the Proper Word Order
Each language has its own peculiarities when it comes to word order. And in many cases, when one changes the order of words, it affects the whole meaning of the sentence.
Therefore, to prevent any confusion, stick to the set standards. Look for translation tips that can help with your word order. Useful English reports that “The most common pattern of basic word order in English declarative sentences is SUBJECT + PREDICATE + OBJECT, often called SUBJECT + VERB + OBJECT (SVO) in English linguistic sources. Examples: Tom writes stories. The dog sees the cat.”
That is what one has to bear in mind when writing for translation. Whenever it feels like the sentence would sound better with a changed word order, your task is to ensure that these changes do not hinder the general meaning and clarity of the piece.
It is crucial to look at a written piece from a new angle, as if you were a foreigner seeing this text for the first time.
4. Avoid Word Plays and Humor
Even though having an interesting and humorous style in writing is important, getting rid of it can be a much better option in many cases. Remember, you’re writing for multiple audiences and translation tips like using simple English can greatly speed up a project.
This is especially true if it gets in the way of developing a clear and direct meaning. Use words that have a precise meaning so your translator does not have to search for different meanings to understand your intentions.
No matter whether you are creating cause and effect essay examples or an article for an international paper, humor can be a major enemy when it comes to writing for translation.
Do you want to be funny or clear? In this case, the latter is a much better option.
5. Use Simple Grammatical Constructions
When it comes to choosing active or passive voice constructions, always opt for the former. It is clearer and easier to understand. Make sure that the subject performs the action instead of having the action being performed on it.
Again, to make sure that the text is not overloaded with Passive Voice, copy the text and insert it into a special field in the Hemingway application. The program highlights all the passive voice usages with a blue color and even offers a number of cases that don’t hinder the overall readability of the piece. Translation tips like avoiding the passive will ensure best end results.
6. Don't Opt for Phrasal Verbs
Phrasal verbs are not your best option, especially when they come right after or before strings with prepositions. They only confuse the translator and might be misunderstood.
Besides, depending on the goals you have in mind for this particular article, you might not set a correct tone with phrasal verbs.
In general, phrasal verbs are considered informal and, with time, even the formal meanings gain some additional concepts associated with them.
All in all, try to use a single word instead of a phrasal verb. For example, “take down notes” should be replaced with “write notes”, “fill out” with “complete” and “egg on” with “encourage.” Otherwise, you could be in for a nasty surprise once the document is translated.
7. Watch Out for the Dates
Did you know that when writing dates, people from Eastern Europe write the day first, and then the month? This might be a big surprise, but if you don’t pay attention, this will lead to huge misunderstandings. It is easier with numbers higher than 12. But if you are not that lucky, documents can be ruined.
Thus, the 7th of May turns into the 5th of July.
So, translation tips include writing dates with words or, if that’s not possible, surfing the web for information about the standards in the target country you are writing for.
Alternatively, keep in touch with the translator and make sure that you have talked such issues through from the start.
Writing for translation differs from regular writing a lot. Adding a joke that would make the style and tone more engaging can be a dangerous step unless you trust the agency whose services you are using.
And even though these are the seven most important translation tips to remember about such type of writing, there are a couple more to bear in mind.
Some Final Translation Tips for the Best Work
Do not forget to talk with your translators. Maybe things you are talking about in your text are not present in the life of your target audience. As a result, you will not reach the goals you have behind the text.
Therefore, you can either explain what those realities represent or how they are relevant to your main message, or rewrite the piece altogether.
Also, since English has a tendency to cut words out by comprising nouns into long strings often hard to read and understand for foreigners, you need to cut them into smaller pieces easier to digest.
Finally, keep an eye on those pronouns. As a native speaker, you might not even notice them. But, trust us, foreigners see them from afar. If you can use “which” in some parts of your text instead of “that,” do it! It makes all the difference to the writing.
Once these translation tips are taken into account, writing for translation will no longer be a problem. No matter whether you’re a professional writer, a content manager, or a student working on this task, with a clear system in mind, they will no longer need to worry about the quality of the end translation.
Kevin Nelson is a professional educator and a private tutor with over eight years of experience. He is also a content writer for various blogs about higher education, entertainment, social media & blogging. During his off time, Kevin enjoys traveling and cooking. Feel free to connect with him on Twitter, LinkedIn & Google+.