Translating Aotearoa



Transl-[iter]-ating issues

Are your working languages English and Russian, Thai or Arabic? Are you constantly navigating between scripts? If so, then translation includes the added difficulty of transliteration, and the ‘to transliterate or to not transliterate’ dilemna. Continue reading “Transl-[iter]-ating issues”

Upcoming webinars on XTM Cloud

Logo of XTM CloudThe Translation Service has recently started using XTM Cloud, a web-based translation tool giving you access to the most advanced translation technology for free. If you haven’t used it yet, or would like to find out more, you may be interested in the list of upcoming webinars that XTM is holding in the next month. The one titled Getting started with XTM Cloud 8.8 for Freelancers – Intermediate level’ is specifically designed for translators.

Please let me know if you attend one of them.

Fundamentals of Revision

Revision is one of the main bones of contention within the translation industry. Many translators complain that revisers often overstep their role and go overboard with their corrections. While this may or may not be true, revisers are often left in the dark as to what they are meant to be doing. Continue reading “Fundamentals of Revision”

Collaborative translation teaching

One of our panel translators, Sandrine, reports on the course she attended in Auckland, along with Stefan and Claire.

Last month, I attended the Certificate in Collaborative Translation Teaching offered by the department of Translations Studies of the University of Auckland. The course focused on “cooperative and collaborative models of learning and teaching” translation and was designed for teachers and lecturers, as well as experienced professional translators wishing to teach. I was very enthusiastic when I first read about this course. Over the years I have had so many skilled migrants asking me about online translation courses and mentoring that I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to see if I could actually teach translation.

Image of a tui in a pohutukawaWell, I came back from the course loaded with ideas and lessons learned, not only regarding translation teaching, but as a professional translator too. Most participants (apart from Stefan and a couple of other translators) were lecturers and teachers, so my first impression was that I didn’t really fit here. However, I quickly realized how complementary both the skills and knowledge of the industry and universities are.

On the other hand, as the name of the course itself suggested, the whole workshop was articulated around the use of collaboration to teach translation. Therefore, we were asked to group, exchange, cooperate, interact, agree, disagree, compromise and work collaboratively as a group. We were also required to design a course aiming at teaching translation, both individually and collaboratively. At first, I must admit I was very skeptical, simply because most practitioners work independently and are very isolated. ‘Why teach new graduates how to work collaboratively when they’re going to have to practice on their own?’ I wondered. Well, by the end of the course, I had changed my mind completely. The result was outstanding. Groups formed amongst people from very different backgrounds to design extremely detailed courses syllabus with very challenging teaching settings, all this in less than three days.

I realized that after years of working alone behind my screen, I had forgotten about the advantages, the stimulation and synergy generated by exchange, group problem solving and “live” peer review. Most sadly, I realized I had as well forgotten how much more I could get out of my brain in a cooperative environment rather than browsing my online dictionaries.

I have come back home quite convinced and hopeful that a cooperative collaborative translation teaching environment could contribute greatly to “re-humanizing” our profession.

If young graduates are trained from the very beginning to work together, they could take us way beyond terminology forums. I do hope that educational institutions will keep fostering collaboration as a component of the translation process in its own right, so we can embrace technology as a new vehicle of team work and hopefully slowly transition from a highly computerized and anonymous industry towards hubs of translators working collaboratively.


Click below to find out more on the project Sandrine, Claire and Stefan collaborated on.

The Pohutukawa Method

E-learning platform – progress update

It has been a while since this newsletter last mentioned our training programme, but don’t despair: this project is still going ahead. Although it may not look like it from your end, we have made a lot of progress (‘a lot of work has been going on behind the scenes’ as my former manager would say).

Image of a light bulb with the text: I learn, what's your superpower?We have tested different Learning Management Systems, including iLearn (the Department’s LMS for employees’ professional development), the LMS of the Ministry of Education, and Edmodo which creates an online classroom with a very Facebook-inspired design. The one that seems the most appropriate is the Ministry of Education’s system. In due course, you will each receive login details to access e-learning modules that will have been assigned to you. You will also be able to sign up for modules that you would like to take.

For now, there are three streams of e-learning: Translator, Reviser, and Assessor. They complement each other, and you would be expected to complete the Translator stream before starting any module of the Reviser stream. This being said, we will adapt the e-learning programme to your needs and your objectives. If you know how to use track changes in Word, there is no point in assigning this module to you. There is also no point in assigning you Reviser training if you don’t wish to carry out revision work.

You will receive a certificate on completion of an e-learning stream. Our hope is that you will be in a better position to perform well. This in turn will be reflected in the fees that we will pay you. As a matter of fact, we are reviewing our payment structure, and an emphasis will be put on quality.

We are currently developing the e-learning material using a programme called Articulate – and I must say that I’m very excited about the possibilities it offers! Here is a list of the modules that are planned so far:

  • Welcome to the Translation Service: this module will allow you to meet the team, find out who we are and learn about our expectations;
  • What is a good translation?: this module will set out translation principles that should be followed when translating for TTS. There will be some theoretical background but not too much! It will primarily make use of examples and give some advice and a few translation strategies;
  • The Art of Selective Translations: this module will take you through the selective translation process step-by-step, and will put an emphasis on practice;
  • The Art of Full Translations: this module will explain the full translation process and draw upon some fundamental translation principles. Formatting issues and other TTS standard practices will be addressed as well;
  • Basics of Word Processing: this module will help you make the most of word processing software;
  • The Art of Revision: this module will take you through the revision process and explain exactly what is expected from you;
  • Getting to Grips with Track Changes and Comments: the title is transparent. This module will take you through the track changes and commenting functions of word processing software;
  • The Art of Test Translation Assessment: this module will help you understand what is expected from you when assessing a test translation. It will take you through our quality assessment metric and provide some practice opportunities.

This is a work-in-progress, so any feedback is welcomed. Would you like to add anything to this list? If so, let me know.


The secret lives of revisers

Do you know exactly what a reviser does or should do? Many of you carry out revision tasks for us, as our translation process includes a revision stage in accordance with the EN 15038 standard for translation services. But do you know exactly what revision entails?

We can start by stating what it isn’t:

  • revision is not a retranslation, i.e. you should not do the translation all over again;
  • revision is not proofreading, i.e. you should not only read the translation and make sure that it sounds good.

Quality approved tickAs a reviser, your task is to compare the translation to the original text to make sure that the translator understood the source text correctly and transferred its meaning adequately into the target language. This means that you are responsible for making sure:

  • that everything has been translated – no omissions should be left unmarked;
  • that the terminology has been properly researched and used;
  • that there is no spelling or punctuation error;
  • that numbers have been transcribed accurately – for example, the number 1,250.30 in English is 1 250,30 in French;
  • that the formatting of the translation reflects that of the original;
  • that the tone and style of the translation match those of the original text and are appropriate for the intended readership.

In doing so, a reviser needs to respect the original translator’s work and style, and accept that the same meaning may be expressed in different ways. For example, ‘I slept through my alarm clock this morning’ and ‘My alarm clock didn’t wake me up this morning’ express the same idea; both options would be acceptable.

In that regard, our personal stylistic preferences are irrelevant. The role of a reviser is to eliminate errors and by doing this, improve the quality of the translation. If the text submitted to you doesn’t contain any errors, then you shouldn’t make any corrections. You can however make rephrasing suggestions if you think that they would significantly improve the quality of the translation.

From a practical point of view, please use track changes to mark your corrections (if you don’t know how to use track changes, read this page), and use the comment function to make your suggestions (learn how to use comments here).

You may also find it helpful to use the error categories mentioned in the article on assessing translations (translation and language errors), as well as a third type of errors: compliance errors – these relate to the non-adherence to instructions, style guides, required format etc; a blatant disregard of instructions would qualify as a major compliance error, while a slight deviation from the instructions given is a minor one.

Thinking of revision in those terms may help you distance yourself from your personal preferences and focus on errors per se. As mentioned earlier, it shouldn’t prevent you from suggesting important improvements – you only need to be able to distinguish between improvements and corrections.

Finally, if you believe that the quality of a translation is too poor to be revised – but that should only happen on rare occasions, shouldn’t it? – let us know and give some examples. Do not start translation afresh without being instructed to do so by the project manager.

We are in the process of developing an ongoing quality assessment system, which should be implemented by the end of the year at the latest. This will involve a few changes in the way we do revision, but the basic concept of revision will remain. Compulsory training in that area will also be provided.

The key to translation assessments

Many of you will be familiar with the way we recruit new translators. Anyone who is interested in applying to become one of our panel translators needs to fill out an application form and do a translation test. When possible, we will ask two of our existing panel translators Images of a checklist showing ticks and crosses(i.e. you) to assess the translation and help us decide whether that person is a good translator and should be added to our panel.

To a certain extent, the assessment process is very similar to a revision (see the article on revision in this issue). Both tasks require you to compare the target and source texts, and make sure that the meaning has been translated correctly. While a reviser makes corrections and suggestions, an assessor only makes comments to mark up errors and explain why they are errors (if you aren’t sure how to use comments, read this page).

To help you with this task, we recently established a new quality assessment system and defined two types of mistakes:

  • Translation errors: these are related to the transfer of meaning. They may be omissions, additions, mistranslations etc. – the rendered meaning is different to the original;
  • Language errors: they relate to the language used in the target text, i.e. spelling mistakes, improper syntax, inadequate language level etc.

There are two severity levels: errors may be either minor or major. For example, the colour of a car in a short description in a novel may not be a major piece of information to the reader – if the car is red in the translation when it is burgundy in the original, it won’t be of great consequence, and would normally be considered minor; however, in a theft report to the police, the colour of the car is an essential element and any mistake in that regard would be major. Another example is punctuation. While it may generally be considered a minor issue, in a sentence like ‘Let’s eat Grandma!’, the lack of a comma determines what will be served for dinner…

Your comments should contain an error code, as well as a note explaining why this should be considered as an error (in English).

 Error type  Translation  Language
 Severity  Major   Minor   Major   Minor 
 Code  MT  mt  ML  ml

For example:

‘A grey, blue-eyed cat jumped into his lap and started puring.’


  • his – MT: wrong possessive pronoun. The character is female
  • puring – ML: spelling mistake. This should be written ‘purring’.

Here’s an example of what you should not do:

A grey, blue-eyed cat jumped into his lap and started puring.’


  • A grey, blue-eyed cat – The cat was grey and had blue eyes and jumped into her lap.
  • his – her
  • puring – purring

Two general questions round up the assessment process:

  1. What is the intended purpose of the original text? Can the target text be used for that purpose?
  2. On a scale of 1 to 5 (with 1 = doesn’t sound natural at all; 5 = well written and sounds as if it had been written by a native speaker of the target language), how natural does the translation sound?

As you can imagine, the assessment process is very important. If we ask you to do one, it means that we trust you to give a fair and informed assessment of a test translation that we can then send back to the applicant, so that he/she may become aware of their strengths and weaknesses. As with a revision, you should only focus on errors, and accept that different translators have different styles.

TTS’s ten golden rules for translation II

6. Tell us straight away if you notice an error

You don’t necessarily know all of us personally, but we’re generally a nice bunch. And as humans do, we sometimes make mistakes… so if you notice any error in an email or assignment – for example, the amount we should pay you is wrong, the number of words is implausible, or even the document we sent isn’t the one you expected (i.e. we sent you’re a divorce certificate instead of a birth certificate, or the birth certificate we sent is for a person whose name is very different to the one we gave you as preferred spellings), do let us know as soon as possible, i.e. before returning the translation as it is hard for us to do anything then.

7. Follow instructions

Some jobs are quite straight forward, others not so much. If anything is out of the ordinary, the project manager will specify this in the email that is sent to you and may also call you to make sure you understand what is expected from you. So please make sure that you carefully read our emails. And if you have any doubt, call us or send us an email.

For selective translations, your first port of call should be our Guidelines for Selective Translations. For full translations and revisions, we will update our guidelines, and provide some training.

8. Meet deadlines

It’s a no-brainer, really, but sometimes it’s worth reiterating. Our clients expect to receive their translations at a certain date – our reputation and business relationships may be hurt by our inability to meet their expectations. That is why meeting your deadline is key.

When we send you an assignment, we do our best to give you enough time to complete it. If for any given reason you can’t meet the deadline, or you think you would need more time to provide a high-quality service, let us know: we may be able to push the deadline; if we aren’t, we’ll need to assign the job to another linguist.

9. Follow our file naming conventions

We’ve already mentioned this in a previous issue of the newsletter, and some – alas not all – of you now follow our file naming conventions. Here’s a quick reminder: the name of a file should be made up of 3 parts:

  • the job number (0001, 0002_2 and so on);
  • followed by a space and the language other than English (Spanish, Hindi, Tagalog etc.);
  • followed by a space and the letter that corresponds to the stage the translation is at (T for translation, R for revised, and PF for panel final).

This is what your file names should look like: 0123_4 Urdu T.doc.

10. Take feedback into account

The reason why we send you feedback is to help you have a better understanding of our expectations, improve the quality of your work, and ultimately minimise the time we need to spend to bring your translations up to our standards. While we take the time to send you feedback, we expect from you that you will read our comments and take our recommendations onboard. We wouldn’t bother if we didn’t think it was worth it!


The ten golden rules are here to help us build and maintain a good working relationship. Make sure to follow them and you will inadvertently abide by the most important unwritten rule of all: keep your clients happy.

Because ultimately, happy clients and project managers are more likely to send you work.

Do you have one or several golden rules that you always follow? Leave a comment to tell us.

TTS’s ten golden rules for translation I

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 Image of antique rules of an English innyour 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.

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