1. Have a clear understanding of the text you’re about to translate
This may sound like a platitude to you, but this is by far the most important principle of translation and needs to be reiterated. To be able to translate a text into a language – preferably your mother tongue – you need to understand every nuance of meaning it contains. Depending on the level of difficulty, you will need to do research on the Internet or using other resources; you may have to refer questions to a native speaker or a specialist (if so contact us and we will help you). If there’s something you’re unsure about, don’t just take a guess and hope for the best! A good translator doesn’t assume knowing everything – he/she is able to recognise gaps in his/her knowledge and has a set of sound strategies to overcome them.
2. Think about the translation’s purpose and target audience
Understanding the source text includes thinking about the actual translation. Before starting your translation you should answer a certain number of questions: What is the translation for? Who is it for? What level of language will you use? You wouldn’t use the same language for official documents and brochures aimed at ethnic youths, would you?
3. Watch your language
Your translation shouldn’t contain spelling mistakes, poor grammar (unless it is voluntary), and other language errors, and should conform to the typographical rules of the target language. An upper-case letter in the source text – English LOVES capitals – does not necessarily equate to an upper-case letter in the target text. French, for instance, has very specific typographical and punctuation rules issued by the French National Printing Office. Check if an equivalent set of rules exists in your mother tongue; if not, you read the leading newspapers written the target language, and follow their lead.
4. Keep your formatting simple
As stated in a previous article, our preferred font is Arial 11. Full translations should all start with our heading, except if otherwise instructed: insert 8 line breaks, than ‘Translation xxxx’ in bold and underlined, another line break followed by ‘Issued in Wellington, New Zealand on [automatically updated date]’ in bold, 2 line breaks and ‘[Translated from xxxx]’ in the target language. Please refrain from using textboxes or hitting the tab key too often: inserting tables will do the trick and are much easier to format.
5. Be consistent
Make sure that you are consistent throughout your translation – in terms of tone, style, term choices, and formatting. Consistency is an important issue as a lack thereof may be confusing to the reader.
[To be continued.]
Do you have one or several golden rules that you always follow? Leave a comment to tell us.