Translation Services and the Benefits of Highly Translatable Original Text

Translatable Text

Not every text is easy to translate. The issue is not the depth of knowledge expressed in the writing, but in the way it is written. Many highly informative, advanced academic and scholarly texts are translated without a hitch, while others with less value or far less technical information create days of frustration for translators. The difference lies in the translatability of the original text.

There are several key features that determine the difficulty of the text to translate. The most common of these elements are word choice and usage, word combinations, difficult sentences, and figurative language.

What are the Consequences of Difficult Text

In its simplest form, the main detriment of difficult text is that it may read well in its source language, but the translation may not accurately express the thoughts of the author.

When a text is difficult, or in some cases impossible, to translate directly, the translator must decide the best way to present the idea that the author was trying to convey.

Sometimes, they can leave the text alone and let the reader try to work out the meaning through context, other times they will try to explain an idea parenthetically or in a footnote, and still other times they will do their best to summarize the intent the best way they can.

Arabic writer and translator Fatma Naaot put it this way, “I asked myself a question: Is my job as a translator to communicate what [the author] says or how she says it?”

Many translators, especially those working with top-quality translation services, possess native-level fluency in both the source and target languages, understand the cultures associated with both languages, and are experts in the professional or academic field associated with the source text.

Even still, if you do not want the translators rewriting your document or deciding what you intended to say, a clean, highly translatable original text makes all of the difference.

Identifying Translation Hindrances

Word Choice: Choose words that have clear, distinct meanings. Avoid homonyms, homophones, and words that rely on context to have meaning. Jargon and slang should not be used unless there is absolutely no other option or it is critical to the text.

Once words, especially technical words, are used, use them consistently. The general rule is; one term, one concept. In other words, do not use the same word when addressing different topics, and do not use multiple words to refer to the same topic.

When words can be used in multiple ways, such as being used as a noun or a verb, choose one use and stick with it throughout the text. You should also ensure that you use complete thoughts. English is already short on descriptive articles, don’t leave out the adjectives and linking verbs. Consider the phrase Empty Drawer: is empty an adjective describing the drawer or is it a verb as part of an imperative?

Difficult Sentences: Sentence structure is different in almost every language in the world. When sentences are well written, translation is easy and efficient; when sentences are complex and ambiguous, they require significantly more time, effort, and expense to translate. They may also end up losing some of the original intent.

Some sentences involve structural or lexical ambiguity and other are simply not formatted in a way that is easy to understand or translate. Take, for instance, this sentence:

Senator John Banks of River, Idaho, is shortly to release a unique non-fiction work detailing the life of Foster Grant, who was, in effect, a member of the optical design community during the critical stages of lens development in 1965, during Oliver Peoples heyday, and a major contributor to the optics industry.

The sentence is grammatically sound, but is structurally ambiguous, complex, and could be confusing during translation. This sentence should be broken up into several much simpler sentences, each saying exactly what is meant.

Figurative Language:  Idiolects, sociolects, and culturally-dependent language is often very difficult to translate and can cause a great deal of confusion for translators and the targeted readers. Consider the use of gumbo or grits in your text. To a person from the southern United States, there would not be much trouble in understanding what is being addressed, but these words do not have an accurate translation in most languages and would require a description for them to be completely relevant.

If sociolects (words that receive relevance based upon societal knowledge or norms) are not absolutely essential to your text, it is recommended that you choose a different term. On the opposite side of the equation, if you know your text has figurative language, you will want to ensure you have a translation service that is capable of accurately representing your intent in the target language.

When creating your text, taking the time to create a clean, easily translatable document will save countless hours and dollars during the translation process. If you know that your document will have these issues, the importance of selecting a translation service that can accurately convey your message becomes more important than ever.

This post is written by Robert Stitt, a content writer with Ulatus.

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