In our previous entries we’ve told you what our standard days look like, what we actually translate, what tools (like CAT software here and there) and hardware we use. Now we would like to tell you what we actually do when we translate.
Of course, this entry presents some general notes about our process of translation, as no two texts are translated exactly in the same way, but there are some patterns which can be applied to most if not all projects. This text will focus primarily on translating in a CAT, but many of the practices can be used in other methods.
Once we’ve done all the administrative duties like analysis, price quote, etc., one of the first things we need to do is familiarise ourselves with the text. In a perfect world, it would be best to read the whole text before translating it, but usually deadlines are too short and we have to resort to other methods.
Often, it is enough to skim over the text. We look for terminology or recurring phrases, so we can either start thinking about possible translations or look for definitions within the text itself. We can also find potentially difficult fragments, like long clauses in agreements or unclear descriptions of pictures.
It is also worth looking at images or any graphic elements such as photographs, charts, designs, etc., as they are hidden by default in many CATs. Of course, we can use the document preview function, which shows the translated text in a separate panel as it would look like in the target file. However, this is not always the best way as some details can be unclear in smaller resolution. It is always good to be aware of the illustrations before we start work and think how those influence the translation and see if they provide the needed context or contain any useful information. Finally, by skimming the text we get the general idea what it is about and what its structure is.
Before we even begin translating first segments, it is also a good practice to gather some basic background information. Usually, for a start, we check the client’s website, as it helps to understand what they do, what their goals are, who their customers are, etc. In the case of product descriptions, even if this means industry-scale machinery, the websites can include some other data that can help us with the current project.
In the best-case scenario, the client may have their website in both languages, which serves as a perfect reference material for terminology or preferred phrases. A word of advice here, however: sometimes it may happen that the translated version online is of poor quality or simply wrong, so we always need to apply our sound judgement when using such sources.
When we finally get to translation as such, the job consists of several different activities. Many segments are translated the way people think it is done: we look at the original sentence, think, and recreate the meaning in the other language. Sometimes it happens almost instantly, sometimes it requires deeper thinking for some minutes, but still no other tools are necessary.
Yet an equally important and common part of the translation process is research. The research can be as simple as looking up words in a dictionary or scouring the whole Internet to find the necessary bit of information.
In the case of dictionaries, we use traditional bilingual dictionaries, monolingual dictionaries, thesauri, glossaries, or specialist dictionaries, e.g. Polish-English Welding Dictionary. We make use of paper editions, software versions, online portals, and many more. We won’t go into too much detail here, as we’ll cover this topic also in a separate entry.
Apart from that, the research may require looking for specific translation of a term or gaining additional context to understand the original text better. This may happen when the text is unclear to the reader. This is especially the case when we translate a text from English that is either poorly written in or translated from some other language. Then, the research may span across Wikipedia, professional websites, specialist portals, forums, Facebook fan pages, various books we have… sky is the limit. It is also a good idea to consult other professionals specialising in a given subject in their daily work.
When we still can’t find any solution to the problem at hand, we turn to the client because they may know what the given term in the target language is from their everyday practice or they may provide additional context. The client may not realise that particular terms or fragments may be difficult to understand or find, yet they know their equivalents in the target language and would love to share this information without hesitation.
Once we’ve finished the translation, we move onto the third part, which is review. If the client’s deadline permits, we let the translation “rest” some time (one or two days) before we check it. This allows our brains to “forget” the text and to look at it later on with a fresh mind. If not possible, we review the text straightaway. For us, the review consists in re-reading and correcting all sorts of mistakes and errors in the translated text: typos, grammatical mistakes, spelling mistakes, wrong punctuation, clumsy wording, terminology, style, syntax – anything and everything that comes up under our scrutiny.
Of course, if the translation is made in Wordfast, we additionally run the Transcheck feature, which immediately highlights certain mistakes (e.g. typos found by MS Word spellchecker or discrepancies between number values). The text is also proofread by our other – Martyna verifies Paweł’s texts and vice versa.
As part of the reviewing, we also check whether the formatting remains the same as in the original file. However, it is rarely the case that the target file generated by a CAT has different formatting than the original but it does happen once in a while: parts in bold are not where they are supposed to be, coloured sections are in black, etc. Some illustrations may be even displaced or disappear altogether. It is also our job to guarantee that such issues are corrected.
Once we’ve completed this stage, we write additional comments to the translation for the client. This seldom happens, but may be required to point out some difficult or unclear sections or explain certain translation choices we’ve made. We always do our best to communicate all existing issues and doubts to the client so that the final product is ready to go.
This concludes the whole process of translation at Translatorion. If you want to learn more, feel free to ask us anything in this regard. And if you need to have your text translated, you can be sure we will do it using our best practices, procedures, and processes!