Secret Weapons for Translators
No matter how fast the human brain works, translation output is limited by clumsy fingers. Typing (and now keyboarding) speeds have remained largely unchanged over the past 150 years, and human translators will never compete with massive CAT databases and powerful servers, in terms of speed. But here are some secret weapons that can be wielded only by human translators:
- Abbreviations – try to avoid abbreviations (and their acronym cousins), due to their potential ambiguity. The most obvious examples are dates. Depending on the system followed in each country, 05/10 or 05.10 can be construed very differently – does this mean October 5 or May 10? The effective option here is to check the system most commonly used in your source document country and then write out the dates in full in the usual format for the destination language (which also means picking and standardizing a format for your document): October 5, 2017 is acceptable, also 5th October, 2017 or October 5th, 2017. If in doubt, you may have to check this with your client or even add a translator’s note.
- Acronyms – the bane of every translators life, every acronym must be
researched meticulously to check if it is in the source language or English, and found-and-replaced if necessary (don’t forget to tick the Match Case and Whole Words Only boxes in Word). Worse still, many source language acronyms have a completely different meaning in the target language, sometimes hilarious or even plain rude. A perfect example is Brazil’s Tax Court, known as the ‘Tribunal de Impostos e Taxas’ …
- Allusions – usually very location-specific, translators should seek an equivalent that is understandable to their targeted readers. If a local landmark is used to describe size (higher than Mount XXX), research the height of the geographical feature in question and add it in brackets afterwards: higher than Mount XXX (10,000 feet). Historical references benefit from added data: ‘the collapse of the Monarchy’ means very little to anyone unfamiliar with local history, so add the occasion and date in brackets (Peasant Uprising, 1329), as well as for historical personages: King John III (1793-1804).
- Metonymy – often familiar only in the source-language country, these sometimes obscure references can be handled smoothly by keeping the original mention and adding a brief explanation that flows with the rest of your text: ‘decisions emanating from the Casa Rosada presidential mansion are …’
Follow these tips for smooth-reading professional translations with sophisticated touches that are nevertheless easy to understand!