When it comes to translation, most people don’t stop and think about how much of an impact the raw material has on the finished product.
It’s only when you become familiar with the industry and its challenges that you realise how much of a difference the quality of the original text makes to the time and effort that it takes to produce the best possible translation.
Sometimes, a writer will create a chunk of text with a monolingual audience in mind, and it’ll just happen to end up getting translated further down the line. However, there are many occasions on which, when creating a text in its original language, the writer will already be well aware that it’s going to be translated into one or more foreign tongues.
On those occasions, there’s a lot that said writer can do to make sure that the translator’s job will be as easy as possible, minimising the possibility for any misunderstandings and making the translation process quicker, and, probably, cheaper.
Here are a few handy tips for writing translation-friendly original texts.
- Keep it concise
If you can say it in ten words rather than twenty, make sure you do. If you don’t get directly to the point some of the meaning and nuance you’re trying to convey might be lost.
What’s more, keeping things brief means you’re doing yourself a favour financially. Remember, translation is charged by the word!
- Consistent word choice
You may well have had it drummed into you at school that you should never be repetitive when writing, but in the case of writing for translation, consistency is key, as it prevents any ambiguity.
Synonyms should be avoided if possible for the sake of clarity, and also to make the translation process quicker and more efficient. Translation software remembers how certain words and phrases are translated, so if they’re used consistently then it speeds the translation process up.
- Keep it simple
No matter how technical and complex your subject matter, make sure your text is as simple and accessible as possible.
Whilst you should always trust your translations to a professional that specialises in your particular area, there’s still no point in overcomplicating things. Explaining your points in a simple and straightforward fashion will mean they can translate more efficiently.
Short sentences are also a huge bonus, guaranteeing that multiple ideas don’t get mixed up together.
- Think about formatting
If you’re working with a specific format, it’s important to consider whether that format is going to be compatible with the target language or languages.
Some languages are very succinct whereas some require more words to express the same idea, and, obviously, different scripts require different formatting.
- Avoid idioms
There’s a time and a place for idioms, and that’s definitely not in any text that’s intended for translation. Idioms rarely translate literally from one language to another, and will only overcomplicate things.
If you use them you could risk ending up with a literal translation that makes no sense at all in the target language, or delaying the process as your translator struggles to come up with an appropriate equivalent in their native tongue.
- Say what you mean
When writing for translation you need to make sure you say what you mean unambiguously, without leaving anything left unsaid or merely implied.
Don’t waste your time trying to come up with clever ways to say things that will, most probably, be untranslatable. Double meanings or clever plays on words should be reserved for monolingual audiences.
Were you already implementing some of these tips? Share this article with someone else who might find it useful!