How to make a document easy to translate

November 26, 2014 by H Fream

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Here are some tips on how to produce a document that will be easy to translate into another language. 

If you’ve never used the services of Rosetta Translation Ltd before, then you might be surprised to know that we do much more than just translate a document from one language into another.

On the contrary, we like to be involved in your business’ process of expanding into another market from the earliest opportunity – and you can read more details on this in our new white paper, ‘The Real Value of Translation‘.

For example, if possible, we see it as a good use of both time and resources if we can advise on how the original document – the one you are wanting to translate – should be produced.

Having an easy-to-translate piece of text can make a significant difference to not only the work a translator has to do, but also to the quality of the end product once that content has been translated.

Sometimes, this approach can help save a potential headache later on if the source text is written in a way that makes it near-impossible to carry out a direct translation without rewriting whole chunks of the original in the process.

So, what can you do to make a document easy to translate?

Why jokes don’t translate well

The first thing you need to bear in mind is how much more complicated a document can be to translate if it contains jokes and similar colloquial content.

This is because jokes tend not to universally work in every language. The reason why some gags work is down to cultural context, while others might involve the way you read the word out loud, or it might appeal to a particular sense of humour that would be completely lost when read by someone from another nation.

Furthermore, because of the way grammar and syntax is different with other languages, you need to consider whether your joke, when translated, will even make sense as a sentence. Ultimately, if there’s any shred of doubt, you should probably leave it out.

Writing for translation

The key to writing with the aim of translating your text is to ensure you are making every word count. This not only makes sense from a cost point of view – obviously, the more there is to translate, the more expensive it will be – but also from the viewpoint that if you can get away with not saying something, then why should it be included in the text in the first place?

How can you ensure you achieve this? First of all, you should make a plan of what you want to communicate and how you are intending to get your point across. Limit each paragraph to one idea and link each sentence to the next so there is a clear train of thought that the translator can pick up on.

In terms of your style of writing, keep sentences as short as possible. Ideally, they should be no longer than 35 words to maintain readability.

Technical translations

When writing about a subject that requires particularly technical detail, you should highlight this in your source document as this will avoid any confusion at the translator’s end.

Try to avoid any acronyms or jargon if you can help it. The former may not be the same when translated into another language, while you can apply the same rule here as you have to jokes and colloquialisms – what is considered jargon in one language might mean a completely different thing in another tongue.

Finally, provide the translator with any background information they might need. Context can be everything when carrying out this sort of work, so be mindful of where you need to fill in the gaps.

Our project managers can offer more advice like this to help ensure your translation project is as good as it possibly can be. Contact us today for a free quote.

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