Manuals that leave you more confused?
Game instructions that only lead you to lose the game?
Package leaflets that give a good laugh instead of directions?
Have you come across documents that totally missed the point? Probably these were translations that lost track. But did you know that the first and foremost requirement of an effective translation is a well written source document?
In our day to day translation projects undertaken at Language Services Bureau, we often come across texts which are poorly compiled and difficult to translate. We spend considerable amount of time doing some guess work about the meaning, understanding, formatting and re-checking such documents. We therefore thought it is crucial for the content writers and authors of documents to be translated to understand a translators point of view, and we have enumerated steps below which will definitely ease their own work as well as that of the translator! In short if translation is a pre-planned process, it will definitely help to think it through right from the beginning!
Creating translation-friendly documents
When product literature, technical content or any documents are created for business across multiple geographical locations, and when the translations of these documents are going to be used for various purposes, some preparation will certainly help in making the translation process easier and quicker.
An object in a photograph cannot appear clean if it is dirty in reality. It is important that the source document for a translation is clear, precise and easy to understand for the translation to be all of these. When the source text succeeds in communicating the exact meaning to the translator, he/she can work on effectively expressing the same message in the target language. The lesser the challenges faced by the translator, the more the translation will be efficient in its intended application.
Most of the flaws in translation such as –
- word-to-word translation,
- lack of exactness,
- lengthy and complex sentences etc.
may indicate that the translator failed to understand what the source document had to say. If the source document i.e. the original document is unclear, the translator tends to stick to the dictionary equivalents of the words to avoid deviating from the source. There are language-specific styles articulated by certain unique expressions and are almost impossible to translate in another language. If the source document contains such expressions, the translation may become flat and ineffective.How to write to ensure accurate translation of your document
Making sure that the document helps the translator to understand it is the biggest step towards receiving accurate translations. To save on the cost of going from one language into another, to reduce on the frustration of translators all over the world raising questions about your business literature and to finally enjoy the feeling of getting satisfactory service that you paid for, here are some tips to make your source documents translation-friendly.
Structure:If a document is developed following definite and logical path, it is understood better. The structure of a document refers to the manner in which it establishes, explains and concludes a topic. A well-structured and organized document is easily followed by the translator as well as the reader. As a thumb rule a document should evolve starting from the basic to the complex or from core concepts to the circumferential ones.
The translator may not always have background knowledge of your project. At times, the actual translator of your document may not be a part of any of your meetings. So, for him/her the first source of information about the project is the document itself. If the document has logical linking between various topics that it contains, it helps the translator to better visualize what is being said in it.
Pointers to remember:
- Define the structure keeping in mind the type and size of your document as well as the available space.
- Outline the document structure: e.g. if you are writing about a product, here is a basic structure that the document can follow.
Example: A product brochure/documentation can have the following sub-topics and sequence
Introduction --> Purpose --> Basic Features/basic functions --> Usage instructions --> Precautions --> Maintenance and servicing --> After sales service and support
One of the most crucial tasks in creating and translating technical document/s is handling the terminology. Domain specific technical terms are the crux of a document and may pose tough challenges in finding equivalents in another language. However, you can follow certain rules to ensure accurate and fast translation of technical terminology.
Pointers to remember:
- Consistency: It is a must. The terms used for the major concepts must be kept same throughout the project. It ensures consistency in translation.
- Common terms: Apart from the project-specific unique terms, it is always better to use terms that are most common. Avoid using region-specific terminology. Common terms can be easily found in dictionaries and glossaries which saves on the translation time. Also, such terms help the translator to make a fool proof choice of the equivalents.
- Create a glossary: When writing technical documents for a project, it is preferable if a glossary of terms, abbreviations, expressions that commonly appear in the documents is created alongside. This glossary can be passed on to the translator.
This topic will be continued in our next blog in the upcoming new year and month!
Written By Shweta Bhide and edited by Devaki Kunte
December 20, 2016
Language Services Bureau, Pune, India