Translation tip #1: Translate ideas, not words

  • Translation tip #1: Translate ideas, not words

    Translation tip #1: Translate ideas, not words

    Translation enables communication

    When we learn a language we first learn single words. Then, we learn phrases to build sentences. But the sentences are not the goal. The goal is to communicate effectively with people around us. The same is true for translation. Translator’s job is to enable communication between people, countries, companies and organisations and make it as smooth as possible.

    Communicate a message, not words

    When you begin your work try to focus on the message in your text, not single words. Word-for-word translation is the worst thing to do because at the end it will not make any sense to the person the text was written for. Besides literal translation can be done by machines now so nobody will pay you for a piece of work that can be done for free.

    Translated text should not read like translation

    A translated document should not read like a translation. It should be written as it was originally prepared in the target language. This is why grasping ideas contained in sentences and the entire text is so important. Not only it will help you build sentences in your target language properly but also it will make your text intelligible. Before you start, try to answer the following questions:

    1. What industry does the text come from? (Was it written by a lawyer, an insurance company or maybe IT professional?)
    2. What is the target audience? (Who the text is addressed to?)
    3. What is the text about?
    4. What is the purpose of the text? (What is the intention of the author. For example, if it is a marketing text is it intended to make consumers buy a product or only let them know that a new product has been just launched?)

    If you don’t know the answer to the last question it is always a good idea to ask your client what they want to achieve with this text. After all, if your translation will help them achieve their goals they will coma back to you with more work and will not let you go.

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    Hanna Gembus

    Hanna Gembus is a professional Polish English and Polish German translator and communication specialist based in the United Kingdom providing translation, content, interpreting and market research services to small, medium-sized and large companies and organisations. She specialises in business, marketing and e-commerce, using linguistic and cultural knowledge to help both start-ups and established companies improve their presence on the market and increase sales.

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