Preparing Copy for Translation

A good quality translation is dependant on the original copy. With this in mind we have prepared a list of tips to help you to create copy which will be easier to translate.

Limit the use of Idioms

An idiom is a term or phrase whose meaning cannot be determined literally from the dictionary definition of its words. Idioms are often ingrained in a culture and considered humorous to people outside, just think of a few idioms and analyse what they are actually saying. For instance, terms such as raining cats and dogs, kicking the bucket and a rising tide lifts all boats are idioms.

They make sense to an English speaker but people outside of this culture would have little chance of understanding the true meaning in which this copy was intended.

Some idioms can be translated, although usually not directly — for example, ‘raining cats and dogs’ in English can be translated to il pleut des cordes in French (it’s raining ropes), or llover a cántaros (raining jars) in Spanish.

Humour Doesn’t Translate

Humour can be difficult to translate as it often depends on the country (or even group of people) that the ‘joke’ is intended for in order to make it funny. Even countries that share a common language such as the UK and US have very different styles of humour.

If humour is to be used or a particular approach we recommend that we re-write (transcreate) the copy for each market region (as opposed to translate it) as regions around the world have very different attitudes to humour — especially in a corporate setting!

Provide the Original Brief

To help to understand better what the thought process was in creating the original copy we ask if the original brief or instructions can be supplied with the source text. Context is invaluable in when translating any document.

Be Ready for Questions

After receipt of the source text we may want to speak to the team that created the original copy.

This helps us to understand exactly the background and meaning of the text which in turn helps us to serve you better. Our project managers and translators may also suggest alternatives for specific markets (cultural differences which must be taken into account). For instance, some phrases in the source text might sound offensive if translated into foreign languages.

Supply Past Articles

We can (and will) use any past documents that have been translated for your company before as reference material.

These can be extremely valuable for our translators: they can use them to better understand your style of writing and reproduce it in their translations, vastly improving the consistency of your published material.

Supply Translation Memories

We can work with your existing translation memories and supply them to our translators to ensure consistency in your translations and faster turnarounds.

Define Acronyms

It may be obvious within your business what RSS means for example, but a translator may not understand. Defining any unusual or uncommon acronyms will help make sure the translation retains the original meaning.

Supply Context

If all you need is the translation of a couple of words, please provide us with the relevant context so our translators accurately translate your texts. This can be pictures, manuals, etc.

Tell us What Doesn’t Need Translating

If you would like us to keep certain words in English, please let us know at the beginning of the project.

Leave Space

Some texts will inevitably expand once they are translated. You need to take this into consideration when preparing the source copy and leave additional space.

Right-to-left languages

Some languages are written from right to left: Arabic, Kurdish, etc. When typesetting marketing material or editorial design, entire layouts often need to be ‘flipped’ in order to retain the original flow of the document. It’s useful to bear this in mind at the original design stage if you know your material is going to be aimed at multiple markets or ethnic groups.

Following these simple tips when preparing material for publication will ensure that the translation process runs smoothly.

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