What You Need to Know Before Translating Books


Translators are much more than bilingual individuals who have decided that they can translate materials from one language to another. In fact, translators are, or should be, highly trained and often certified to be able to translate different types of materials. This can include book translation services, audio and visual translations, or even specialized things like Christian book translations. This should be remembered if someone is considering translation as a form of income or even starting a translation business.

Many translation agencies or companies require new translators to go through several stages before being hired. This is something most people that begin as freelance translators do not realize. Those translators who are formally trained and working for companies are often more professional and serious than those who are simply learning through trial and error at home. This is in part because translation goes well beyond using a few CAT tools and retyping something in a foreign language. For starters, professional agencies require translation, proofreading, and editing when necessary by independent translators to check for accuracy. This is essential for the best translation possible. This is a quality control measure that is only seen among professionals.

With this in mind, below is a list of tips for current and hopeful translators to consider prior to taking on large projects like Christian book translations or even advertising book translation services. This focus is on books because the amount of time and detail needed to translate a book is great and often intense. However, all the tips will work for any type of translation service.

Tips for Translators

When starting a new job, make sure to first read all the instructions that have been given. This is true for small projects like a one page ad or lengthy projects like Christian book translation. The instructions from the company or individual hiring you can tell you how to properly approach the translation project. After reading the instructions, double check that the entire file or files have been provided. There is nothing worse than getting ready to start a job or being midway through only to find a file is missing. You should also what file format each client prefers and maintain the use of any CAT tools they request. This includes, but is not limited to the use of glossaries, reference materials, and style guides they send. Remember the client is the providing materials, reference and otherwise, for a reason. Make sure to use them.

Make sure that you are comfortable with the content and subject matter. Some people prefer not to work with certain types of material. A Christian book translator will not want to work with anti-Christian material. This also applies to the type of language used and the style used. If you are unable to maintain the voice of a flowery poet, then offering to translate poetry is not a great option. This does not mean you have to be an expert in all fields, it will take longer to translate materials when you are not familiar with the content or subject matter. Make sure you are at least well informed about the specific content so the message stays intact once the translation is complete. This is also why it is important to have someone double check the translation for accuracy. If you are uncomfortable with something, pass on the job and wait for something you know you can do well.

If you are utilizing CAT tools from the client and a problem with the translation arises, contact the project manager or the client, whatever is procedure for the company you are with at the time. This is important because a previous translator may have made an error or there may be a reason that a specific phrase was translated in a certain way. This should be double checked, especially if it is far from what it should be. In the same vein, if there is material that does not match between what the client provided and the CAT tool, then double check why this may be occurring. If this des occur and time is not on your side, make the correct translation and then in a new file make note of the error. This is important to do as you translate because you may forget or not want to do so after the translation is complete. If something messes up your proposed time line, then contact the client or someone in charge immediately to get help or add a day or two. This is also necessary if your length or word count is going to be outside the projected range.

If you know ahead of time what type of material or subject matter is being translated, located several sources of information that can be used as reference if none has been provided. For example, if you are going to be translating for a specific car brand, find the website and learn their wording and phrasing to help you gather information about the vehicle and company itself. If the company website does not offer a great deal of information or is being updated, look into competitor’s sites to gain a better understanding. This is background work that prepares you for a successful translation.

Once the translation is complete, use the tools at your disposal and do things like spell check and look for untranslated sections. We all make mistakes, but these mistakes should not go back to the client. Read through the translated materials in the target language to make sure it makes sense in context. Also watch for formatting issues that may have been missed on the original translation. Remember, a literal translation is not what is needed, it must read naturally in the target language. Make sure there are no references to anything that may be highly unfamiliar to the target audience.

Before sending anything back to the client, make sure to include any and all notes about the translations. Send something professional to let them know that you completed the job and that it went well or that some issues were had along the way and draw attention to the file that details this. Take time to be a bit personable so the client will request you in the future if translation is needed.

All of these tips are to make each translator the best translator possible. Whether your focus is on Christian book translations, medical files, or general websites, do the best possible job every time.



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