From Good to Great in Translation & Editing

Step 2: Building Confidence

Building confidence to achieve the best translation

Confidence as a translator can be hard to gain, but the key to achieving it is through reading and “listening” when you read.

Active reading and immersing yourself in the subject, the audience, and even the author’s writing style will give you the courage and confidence to offer a translation that best embodies the author’s style and will take your translation to a new level. 

What does confidence in translation look like?

  • Creativity and reader engagement: Studies indicate a direct connection between creative license by the translator and reader engagement/enjoyment. One recent study compared translators working on a text from scratch to those same translators post-editing a machine translation. Readers showed a clear preference for the translations completed from scratch, even though the same translators worked on both texts! Use creative license in your translations and ensure your voice shines through.
  • Let the words sing: Translations should read like a piece of music - good translations flow well. Translations using incorrect syntax or that are overly literal sound like music where a note is off. When phrasing from your draft reads awkwardly, trust your instincts and don’t let it pass you by (even when the translation is technically accurate). Be sure to check that your translations are not overly literal, especially after using CAT tools.
  • Using CAT tools: You are of course welcome to use any CAT tools that you feel comfortable with (we don’t deduct words or payment from your total due to repetition or fuzzy matches). However, we have found that the use of segments in CAT tools can sometimes inhibit translators' ability to ensure that paragraphs and sections are clear and coherent. Therefore, we ask you to read the translation as an independent text a few times until you feel that it reads well as an independent text before submitting your final version for review.
  • Strengthening the final product: There are times when it is appropriate to flag sections for the client that need to be revised for clarity in order to enable us to best do our job. Some of our proudest moments come from producing a translation that reads even better than the original! 

Building confidence to take ownership of your work

Confidence in your work and skills will allow you to take ownership of your work. This may include (but is not limited to): 

  • Adding missing information as appropriate: Authors will often assume the reader is familiar with their content and ideas, but that may not always be the case for your target audience. If there is information missing that is critical to readers’ understanding, we recommend that you suggest an addition or flag it for the author. 
  • A change of direction: Languages are structured differently and what concludes a sentence in one language may need to start the sentence in another. Don’t hesitate to change the word order of a sentence to accurately convey the message. You may also need to split sentences into two, combine sentences that were previously separate, or even move sentences around within a paragraph. 
  • Deleting repetitions: If an author repeats previously stated information, don’t hesitate to suggest cuts in a comment to help the author say more with fewer words (but don’t implement them without consulting the author.)
  • Cultural adaptation: Translation means adapting a text from one culture to another. This may influence the idioms used (a replacement may be necessary). It might require evaluating the relevance of examples or even entire sections to the target audience. Clients are typically grateful for this type of feedback from you. It is important to keep in mind that if the text you are translating includes citations from texts in languages other than the source language, try to utilize an edition (or, where relevant, the original) in the target language, and cite accordingly.
  • Research translations require research: Just as researchers need to double-check their work to ensure accuracy, so do translators. A few grammatical errors or incorrect terminology and the manuscript may be rejected. If your search is not fruitful, or if it is impossible to obtain the required information, please do not simply guess and risk using a translation or phrase that is inaccurate. Instead, please make a clear note using Word’s comment function about the word/phrase you are unsure of, with your query and possible suggestions, and/or consult with the managing editor.   
  • Gender: Gendered language is an important issue that requires our sensitivity. You should be proactive in this regard by consulting with the client about how they want to approach issues relating to gender in the text.
  • Source v. target: Different types of texts require different levels of creative license. We believe that academic translations are similar to literary translations in that a large degree of creative license should be used while preserving the main ideas of the source text.