How to Tackle a Translation
What is the job of a translator?
A translator should always try to do the best they can, and not leave the task of making the translation the best it can be to the reviewer. Remember that if the translation is of poor quality the reviewer can send it back to you for retranslation before they check it so do your job well the first time!
The job of a translator is to make sure that:
- every line is short enough and can be easily read
- the meaning is clear
- the subtitles sound natural in your language
Because of this a translation of a 15-minute talk can take about 5 hours - you have to think about every line and multiple ways to improve it. The quality of the translation lies in your hands just as much as in the hands of the reviewer.
Always keep in mind the audience, the people who will spend their time watching the video which you translated - you want to give them a good experience!
Translators should keep tabs on their finished translation and wait for any feedback from the reviewer to discuss changes made. Both of your names will appear next to the translated talk, so make sure that you can be proud of it :)
- Watch the talk to understand it thoroughly. If you do not understand something do some research.
- Start translating while keeping in mind the following things: Does it sound natural? Does it convey the meaning? Is it short enough?
- Watch the talk and pause every time something looks strange or you don't manage to read the subtitles in the time given. Fix and shorten. See this article for tips on compressing subtitles.
- Read your compleated translation again the next day with a fresh mind and do a sweep for common mistakes.
- Watch the talk without sound, only with subtitles on - if it's good, you can accept it :)
Most common types of mistakes in translations
2. Line length - When you are done watch the talk without the sound. This will force you to focus on reading and seeing how fast you can read. If you fail to read a line twice then you should shorten it (another tip: make sure you can read the line and still have time to look at the video). This is very important because other people do not know the text like you do, and do not read as fast as you do, so they will need more time :)
Ways to shorten the lines:
a) Remove fluff which does not add to the meaning, for example: Err, Well, very, Anyway,...
b) Remove repetitions. If something is obvious from the context then there is no need to say it.
c) Break the lines differently: move part of a meaning to the next or previous line which is shorter
d) Compress two lines into one and double it. In TED player similar lines show without blinking.
e) Find shorter synonyms or find a more common, thus easier to process, synonym.
More tips here.
3. Literal translation Most importantly: Would a native speaker say it like you just wrote it, or would they use a different phrase to explain the same meaning? Does it sound natural? Make sure not to mimic English word order.
4. Punctuation Make sure to learn your language-specific punctuation rules. Make sure you don't follow the English punctuation by accident.
5. Line breaks Learn how to break lines here. Rule of thumb: If a line could be used as an answer to a question on its own, then it is good, if there is an element which does not fit then it should be moved.
6. Language specific errors Navigate to your language in the sidebar of this page and see if there is a list of common errors available.
7. Meaning Think: What does the person speaking mean? Is the message clear? Do I understand? Could I explain it myself?
8. Specialized vocabulary Do your research. Proper names are very rarely translated in a straightforward way. The easiest way to do it is to check the term in English Wikipedia and then navigate to your language. You can also try the KudoZ term archive, and ask a new question if you can't find anything in the available answers. Also remember that proper names (of people or places) may not be spelled the same way in your language as they are in English (for example, Istanbul in English, but Estambul in Spanish). To learn more about searching for terms, watch this video
9. Units of measurement Check if the translator converted them to the ones most commonly used in your language, for example. miles to kilometers.
10. Culture specific items: Jokes, names of products, companies, famous people etc... Make them easily understood for your audience by either explaining them. So, not must Mr. X, but Mr. X a businessman or exchange the name for a category, so "Wendy's" into a fast food chain. Jokes and puns should still be funny, even if you have to achieve it by changing them a bit, you don't want the audience to wonder why everyone is laughing.