How to make your texts translation ready…
and should you?
You have a task to complete, inspiration has struck and you are ready to sit and write your new content. But do you already spare a thought for the future translations that will be created based on your text at this initial stage or does this come later, once your text has been drafted, tweaked and finalised? Believe it or not, the answer to this question may have an impact on the final texts and translations.
What does translation ready mean?
Making a text translation ready means factoring in that a translator, whether human or machine, will one day be tasked with writing your text in a foreign language, and deliberately preparing your text to ensure this process will go as smoothly as possible. This method can be particularly helpful if you would like to use machine translation and post-editing.
What kind of considerations help make a text translation ready? There are lots of ways to take the future translation into account while writing, for example:
- Write for clarity: try to avoid extremely long, complex sentences to make your message clear and simple to grasp. In addition to being good writing practice, it will also give the translator more freedom to phrase the information clearly and naturally in their native language without the added challenge of trying to decode the source text. It will also make it more likely that machine translation will accurately convey the intended meaning.
- Avoid known hurdles: for example, idioms and exuberant, intricate phrasing are notoriously tricky to translate. It increases the chances that the translation will read differently to the original as it may not be able to replicate the same double entendre, imagery or phrasing in the way you would like. This would be a particular challenge for a machine, which tends to translate more literally than a human translator.
- Be explicit with connections: you are an expert in your field, and you write as such. This means that someone who is not in your position may not have the same thought process as you and may need some help connecting the dots. Adding connectors like ‘therefore’, ‘however’, and ‘furthermore’ to your text to help guide the reader along the right path is vital and makes sure the same journey is also followed by those preparing your translations. Often, translators will add these in where appropriate, but having these already present in the text serves as a helpful signpost for the translator. Furthermore, a machine translation will not be able to add in what is not already present in the text.
- Don’t fear separation: making sure you have distinct sections in a text means you can communicate your points clearly and show exactly what information relates to each idea. It should also help highlight when you need to add in further information for a specific point and should reduce the chances of any misunderstanding. Context is key and separating your points will provide clear markers that make it more obvious when you are continuing a point or introducing a new idea.
- Check for errors or omissions: taking your time to write your texts and even integrating a proofreading stage into the process can help make your texts more accurate and precise. It can minimise the risk of accidentally introducing typos in the names of people or products, having additional words left in from where you redrafted a section and having ideas in the text that don’t fully make sense or contradict something later on.
You may be wondering why translators cannot cover all of these bases for you. And the short answer is that they can. Translators are highly proficient in their working languages, skilled at writing in their native language and adept at reading between the lines to convey exactly what you want to say without you needing to spell it out for them. However, the longer answer is simply that some texts present a bigger challenge than others, and depending on what kind of text you are writing (is it simply to inform your employees about the new vending machine in the cafeteria or is it to persuade a new customer to buy a new, expensive product?), making things simpler for the target reader, the translator and the reader of the translated text can sometimes prove a good idea. But most importantly, not all translators are human nowadays.
In our blogpost ‘To err is not just human: common types of error to look out for when post-editing a machine translation’, we explored some of the areas where there is still room for improvement with machine translations. And not only is it essential that post-editors (translators who edit the machine output) know what to look out for after the fact but also that those writing the texts take the machine’s capabilities into consideration. Ultimately, the more translation ready a text is, the better the initial machine output should be, allowing the post-editor to concentrate on other aspects and enabling an even quicker turnaround time.
By writing your text with machine translation in mind, you are actively contributing to how accurate the translation will be. By removing the typos and content errors, you are making sure that these aren’t repeated in the translation. By adding some clarification or context to the source text, you are ensuring that this is also featured in the machine translation and helping your new target audience to see the full picture. And by thinking about your writing style and your phrasing, you are encouraging the machine or the translator to translate your text in the way you would like to have it written.
Why you might want to ignore all of the above
Much like when you are weighing up whether post-editing is the right choice for you or whether you would rather opt for a specialised translation by a human, there are also some similar factors to consider when you are trying to decide whether to write your text freely or with the future translation in mind.
If your text is fairly simple and its aim is predominantly for information purposes or internal use, the key here would be to have a clear message, pass on information and not go in with too many frills. In this instance, it may therefore make sense to keep the future translation process in mind so that the translation can be completed quickly and accurately without follow-up questions, and it might make post-editing a good option.
However, if you want creative flair, vivid imagery or detailed storytelling – for marketing material, website content, advertorials, etc. – then you will probably want to have free rein and really make use of your artistic licence. In this case, it would be a disservice to your text and its purpose to change how you write. This is where specialised translation would be the recommended option and where you need to trust your translation agency to have the right resources for you.
While the tips listed above can help speed up the translation process for more straightforward texts by making them simple to read and understand, or even making them a good candidate for machine translation, writing more complex texts to the best of your ability and focusing solely on the language you are writing in will likely give you a better crafted text, which will naturally also be reflected in the translation. It may make translating your text more challenging, but there’s nothing like a good, mentally stimulating text to get a translator’s creative juices flowing. A well-written, creative text is a great way to give a translator something to get their teeth into and pushes them to come up with more inventive solutions in the target language. It makes the text such a joy to work on that the natural result is a beautifully written translation ready to rival the original.
So, should you make your text translation ready?
There is no clear-cut answer to this. It depends on your texts, their purpose and also how you work as an individual or company. Just make sure you carefully consider all the tips and advice above to figure out what is the best choice for you at that time. And if you aren’t sure or want a second opinion, the ARGUS Sprachmanufaktur team is always happy to help!