Definition of translating

A translator's job is to convey into the target language a text from a source language. The notion of target and source languages is critical. A target language is the translators' native language, the one they know all (or close to all) the subtleties, registers of language, styles etc. Their source language is one which they have a very good knowledge of, comprehend very well but is not necessarily their mother tongue. This distinction is important because in order to give a good translation you must be at ease with the target language. Translators should only take on translation jobs into their target language.

There are many theories on translating, books and reports galore but being concise is a key element so if there are just a few points to remember :

Does the translation contain all the information of the original and nothing else?

Does the translation convey the information as simply and as clearly as possible? If not, rewrite it!

Does the translation read as if it had originally been written in the target language? If not, there is something wrong with it.

Also, in line with these principles is GIGO: garbage in garbage out. A poor original text is no excuse to hand in a bad translation. If you are paid for a translation do your best to carry out your job.

Information or "content", in Internet terms, is also key when translating. The ability to access information and databases providing you with the adequate terms can make the difference.

The European Union's language database is extremely useful. Eurodicautom works with the official 11 European languages which incidentally are English, French, Spanish, German, Dutch, Italian, Greek, Portuguese, Danish, Swedish and Finnish. When using this site my advice would be to extend the number of results to at least ten per page. Also, if you are looking for a set of words, put them in the form and press "phraseology" instead of term. A further element providing better results is if you know, for example, that the word you are looking for is specific to aviation then select this category on the right of the form.

The European Union's style guide is available in various languages and gives you a reference on how to write figures, dates etc. Now, this is not a definitive reference as different international organisations have their own style guides but it does provide you with the experience of professional translators and an element of consistency. A poor translation could be one where you spell some words "ize" and some "ise" for example.Whatever you do, be consistent, no one can then accuse you of being piecemeal.

In reference to point number 2 concerning being concise, the European Union has set up a programme called "fight the fog". The site explains how people tend to write too "elaborately" when things can be put simply. An example " When the troops arrived without any previous warning, this lead to damage."can be put in a manner that reads better "The arrival of unannounced troops caused damage." Although taking a humorous view the point behind this programme is important.

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