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Head and heart

Using our heads
to put heart and soul into our translations

As anyone who has come into contact with the language industry knows, creating an excellent translation is no small feat. It requires a great deal of training, knowledge and skill. This is why it takes years of study to become a qualified translator, and even then, translators are continuously learning and honing their craft. It is therefore definitely fair to say that translating needs you to use your head, but it also needs so much more.

If a text is translated using only your head and an objective approach that dictates that what is written in the original must be replicated exactly in the translation, there is no doubt that you will receive a good translation. All of the translator’s skills will be poured from their brain and onto the page, leaving no stone unturned in their quest to make sure you have an accurate, understandable and usable text. And maybe that is exactly what is required for texts like user manuals, legal documents and instructions. However, this is where the old question of whether you should follow your head or your heart comes in.

It is becoming increasingly clear that nowadays there is more appetite for following your heart, and this is also the case when it comes to readers. While using your head to translate will always be an integral part of this skilled work, the head must also know when it needs to inject some heart and soul into the translation too. And the same goes for copywriting. You probably don’t remember all of the intricate details of the last presentation you attended or the most recent advert you read in the latest newsletter to land in your inbox, but you probably do remember how it made you feel. We don’t just read texts with our eyes, but with our hearts too. Did you feel like you were being spoken to personally? Did you feel a particular emotion when you were finished reading? Did you feel more compelled to act on the information you were being given? This is the purpose of the majority of communication, advertising and marketing texts: to make the target audience really engage with the content beyond simply understanding what is written.

You need to appeal to your readers by using your head to get to their hearts. And you need your translations to do exactly the same thing. This is where working with a boutique translation agency like ARGUS Sprachmanufaktur really comes into its own. Being able to offer that personal touch and having the drive to create strong texts that can more than hold their own against the original is our forte.

You might be wondering how we are able to provide a translation that is both true to your source text and sounds so natural and persuasive in the target language. The answer is passion! We work with highly skilled translators who are passionate about what they do and really pour their heart and soul into their translations in a way that makes it impossible for the reader not to be infected by it. This is backed up by the motivated, driven team behind ARGUS Sprachmanufaktur that puts a focus on high-quality, natural-sounding and motivating texts.

For those of you who are still curious about how such a technical and skill-focused vocation can be successfully combined with portraying emotion and speaking to readers on multiple levels, look no further. Below you will find some of the secret tricks of the trade collected from real translators.

Talk to yourself

And we mean this both literally and figuratively. As a translator, reading your translation aloud can help you to get a real feel for how a text sounds and how it can be read or interpreted, especially if there could be multiple ways of intonating or understanding a particular section. This helps you to see whether a text flows in the way it should and whether something could be difficult to read. However, what we also mean by talking to yourself is putting yourself in the target audience’s shoes. You are no longer the translator but the customer reading the advertising material or the employee reading about some changes being made. How do you feel when you read this? And even more importantly, do you feel anything at all when you read this? This helps you to really see whether your text is hitting home and making the reader feel the same way you did when read through the source text. It also serves as a source of inspiration, as you can imagine what phrases you would like to see and what sections you find particularly engaging or particularly weak, and make the necessary amendments to create a text that is truly compelling.

The ‘Yes, but…’ test

While not a proper test, asking yourself this question throughout the translation process is a really useful tool. There are numerous occasions in which asking yourself this question about your translation can push you to come up with an even better idea or solution. For example, if the purpose of the text is to encourage people to engage with a client’s online content, the you could ask yourself whether you would feel moved to visit this website based on the title and whether you would likely carry on reading when you got there. If the answer is ‘Yes, but…’ then everything that follows is a guide for what needs to be changed. For instance, ‘Yes, but it feels like it’s going to be a really long read’. You have then identified that you might need to be more creative with your solution for the title to better grab the reader’s attention and you might need to come up with more positive, compelling phrasing for the introduction and lead to make sure the reader doesn’t feel like it will be chore to keep reading. Keep asking yourself poignant questions that you would ask if you were the reader and when you can ask yourself all the same questions again without the ‘but’ at the end, you know you are on to a winner.

Let your heart send memos to your brain

As a translator, you are always on the lookout for inspiration when it comes to finding appealing and creative ways to make your texts pop. So if you see or hear something that tugs at your heartstrings, even while you aren’t working, keep a mental (or even physical!) note of this to help you when you are working. As mentioned above, we often remember how we feel about something even if we don’t remember all the details of that something. Drawing on real life inspiration for your translations is therefore an ideal way of injecting emotion into your writing. If you can empathise with the feeling the original writers are trying to convey by casting your mind back to a similar experience you’ve had, you will be better able to phrase your translation in the most compelling way, use vocabulary that really speaks volumes and share a true connection with the reader through the page. It is also a great way to bank some descriptors and synonyms that you can then deploy throughout your translation.

Be a person first

As translating involves transforming someone else’s words and creativity and making them your own, it is easy to lose track of the sense that this is one person talking to another, the reader. There are a couple of ways to approach this challenge: translate the text and then take a step back to see if you can see the person behind it or translate it first focusing on the meaning and feeling it gives you and then check it against the original for accuracy. Both are useful, valid approaches and it will depend on your translation style as to which you prefer to use. However, what these both have in common is that they allow the text to transcend the page and really hit home with your target audience as they will be able to feel the life in the text and be more likely to have an emotional response to it.

There are so many tools and methods that can be used to give a translation some soul, and this requires both the head and the heart. The power of truly feeling and believing what you are reading on a deeper level cannot be underestimated, and this is true of both your marketing and advertising texts as well as their translations. And at ARGUS Sprachmanufaktur, we are experts at combining brainpower with a great deal of heart. Why not see for yourself?