8 Effective Tips to Write a Good Translation

Looking for a few guidelines to make your translation effective? Worry not, you are at the right place.

Whether the companies hire a freelancer or a translation agency, they expect the same quality of work. 

Only, when you are a freelancer, you are your whole company. It means that you don’t have different kinds of protocols in place to ensure the most effective and efficient translation.

As a freelancer, there are a lot of things that a translator misses out on. These things are introduced in an agency and are common processes.

For example, when a customer wants a translation, it does not involve just translation. Rather the conversion from one language to another is just the first step. 

The generalized process goes like 

  1. Translation
  2. Editing 
  3. Proofreading

The clients don’t care that you are not an agency, they want high-quality results. So how can you ensure that being a freelancer? The most basic instinct should be to have your work checked before you send the final draft to the customer. 

You may proofread yourself, but it is very hard to point out your own mistakes. It is also better to get someone to work with you, a freelancer should not work alone.

If you want to give your clients quality results, here are a few tips that can help you translate effectively.

  • Review the Document 

The first step should always be to review whatever documents the client has provided before you start the process of translation. Carefully go through all the instructions provided by the client.

These steps will give you an idea about the angle of approach towards the article. This is also important to make sure that you have all the necessary documents that you need for the translation.

  • Comfort with the Subject

Before making a commitment, make sure that you are comfortable with the subject matter of the document.

There are some translations that don’t require specific expertise, but there are also those that have hefty terminologies.

So make sure that the task that you take on falls within your forte. Taking on a project that you are not an expert in is not wrong, however, it takes some time to wrap your head around the terminologies and make revision even more necessary.

It takes all professionals time to master a number of fields, so it is okay if you are not a master in the field yet.

  • File Format 

File format plays a very important role in the translation process.  Ask your client to send you documents in a translation-friendly format along with a translation memory.

Changing the CAT tool specified by your client can really mess things up. It definitely doesn’t leave a good impression if the client has to restructure the whole document because you had bad formatting.

It is possible that the other tool might have saved you some money, but it can cost you your client as well as your reputation if it messes things up. If it goes wrong, it wastes your effort of translation and the client’s effort of putting the file together as well.

  • Use All Reference Material

Use all the reference material that you receive. Go through all the glossaries, style guide, terminology database, etc. that has been provided by the client.

This is to make sure that the work is consistent and high quality. You may or may not have translated such a document before, you may or may not have translated for the particular client before – either way, they expect consistent and high-quality translation.

  • Open Communication

Communication is the key to success in any project. Should you find a problem in the material provided by the client, or any instruction they have given, contact them immediately.

If there is any inconsistency in the reference material, for example, the client needs to be made aware and you want to make sure which piece of information is preferred to the other.

  • Revise

Once you are done with your translation, revise it to point out any spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, or typos. 

First, compare it to the original document. Then read it on its own to make sure that it makes sense. The end users of this translation do not care for the original document, they want to read the document in their language as if it were originally written in that particular language.

Your job is to enable the end-users to read the document free of any kind of mistakes and errors and in their native language.

  • Don’t be Literal

If your client wanted a word-for-word translation, they could have used an online tool. No one appreciated an overly constricted translation unless it is an idiom, terminology or technical material.

The document needs to read like it is original and not translated. Being extremely literal prevents that from happening. The client wants a work well done, and not want to have to correct your mistakes.

We don’t want to repeat what happened with KFC and Pepsi, do we?

  • Include Notes 

Make a habit out of including notes for your clients in the translation file. 

A file delivery with just your signature or “PFA” shows the least botheration on your part.

If you cannot take the time to write two lines, it shows that you have no time for the client, and might lead the client to question the quality.

Final Word

While it is hard and a lot of work for a freelance translator to ensure high-quality work, it is not impossible. And at the end of the day, all the work pays off really well.

Just all you have to do is keep these few tips in mind, and make sure that you know what you are doing. 

Don’t be shy in asking help from your colleagues or client. More is always better than one. If you keep the Translation, Editing, and Proofreading process in mind and follow these few tips you will be a pro in translating documents effectively.

Sadia Khan

Her idea of life is to Live, Love, Laugh. A little cute, a lot psycho. She loves to write, travel, photograph, eat, and sleep. She is loyal, consistent, moody, and super-excited.

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