Post-checking your translation

Yes, this is one of my least favourite things in the entire world, but it’s a necessity. I actually really enjoy translating, especially if it’s a topic I’m reasonably familiar with so I can whizz through it at a reasonable pace, or it’s something interesting to read and think about. Other times, maybe not so much. But once it’s done, it’s pretty tempting to just hand the work in without checking it properly. I have to confess I have done so once or twice, and the results weren’t too pretty.

So here are the basic steps that I go through before I hand in a translation, and a couple of examples from this weekend’s work…

1. Run your eye over the whole thing to check that all the segments have actually been translated and you haven’t left some source text in there somewhere, or forgotten to edit a pre-translation. Check that you’ve edited all the pre-translated segments – my MemoQ throws up some really bizarre ideas for translations – such as translating a German person’s name into a totally different name (no!), switching a place or address for another one (no again) or misspelling URLs…

2. Skim read to check for glaring errors or really awkward sentences. I always find some small mistakes like this that spellcheck won’t pick up, like accidentally pluralising a word; not agreeing subject and verb (e.g. ‘the user have’) – this tends to happen when you don’t translate chronologically, or you go back and re-edit sentences; use of the wrong word (like there instead of their, which spellcheck won’t notice) or just dodgy grammar or poor constructions. You might also notice if you’ve left in a German word by mistake or mistranslated a term.

3. Consistency check! This is my most hated thing in the world, and also the most important. What does this mean? Well, you probably know that there are no direct equivalents in translation. ‘Katze’ always means cat, but what about ‘Kunde’ for example – which could be translated as client or customer. You don’t particularly want to use one term for half the translation then switch over, or mix them indiscriminately. It sounds easy to avoid, but it isn’t at all unless you keep a running glossary as you translate (recommended, especially for longer texts). What about capitalisation? Do you consistently capitalise or not capitalise a job title, name of a program, title of a document etc. In many cases, you could go either way (contracts may often capitalise words like Agreement or Contract for legal clarity reasons), so make sure you do the same all the way through.

Here are some examples from this weekend’s translation (Terms and Conditions for a cashback scheme).

Nutzer – Here I could have capitalised ‘User’, or simply written ‘user’. There is a slight difference of emphasis, and it would be usual in a contract to capitalise the titles of contractual participants. I didn’t feel like capitalising, but had to make sure I kept this the same.

Shop – I could have translated ‘Shop’ (as in an online web shop) as either shop or store. When checking I realised I’d mixed them up at total random, and decided to do a find and replace to change everything to ‘store’ which is more common for online retailing.

Programm – In English, you can use either program or programme. Officially, program is American, and programme is UK English, but you always use ‘program’ for a computer program. In fact, I could also have translated ‘Cashback Programm’ as cashback scheme or similar. But I used Cashback Program and stuck with it.

Handler – A Handler is a trader/dealer/merchant etc. I used ‘dealer’ even though it sounds a bit drug-dealer ish to me in retrospect.

sogennant – This horrible German word crops up endlessly. It means ‘so-called’ but is used in many more circumstances than we would use it in. The English ‘so-called’ casts some sort of aspersions on the term in question. ‘My so-called friend’. In German it simply means ‘this is the name of this thing’ – so it’s rarely a good idea to actually use so-called. Occasionally I do, but often I just leave it out.

Kunde – As I said, this can mean either customer or client. Customer tends to imply a private individual, whereas client is more likely to be an organisation or a professional client. This text referred to private individuals who could register for cashback for online shopping, so I used customer.

Do I refer to a company as ‘it’ or ‘they’? Generally both can work: ‘WPS pays cashback’, or ‘WPS pay cashback’. Pick one.

Capitalisation of contractual names. I.e. in this case I had to make sure to consistently capitalise Terms and Conditions throughout.

How do you capitalise titles / subheadings? Section 6: ‘Rules, Regulations and Policies’ or ‘Rules, regulations and policies’? – you want to make sure this is the same throughout.

Spacing of slashes: Do you write word/word; word / word; or word/ word? Make a choice!

Email/e-mail?

When referring to someone (such as a ‘user’) do I say ‘he/she’ or ‘they’ when referring to the person? I had to find and replace to make sure these were the same.

Make sure use of quotation marks is consistent (” vs ‘, and make sure German-style marks aren’t still lurking).

4. Spellcheck – you’re probably safe to run a spellcheck now. Spelling mistakes are extremely unprofessional.

5. Run a QA. I don’t know if all TM software has this same function, but in MemoQ this checks for things like inconsistent numbers (i.e. you’ve accidentally written 1,000 instead of 100 in the translation), dates being written incorrectly (i.e. you might have written some as 04/05/14 and some as 05/04/14, or even 4/5/14) or extra spaces being inserted into the text.

6. Final thorough read-through to make sure you’re happy with the final result and everything flows and makes sense.

Yes it can be an annoying add-on when you want to finish everything off, but this doens’t take too long for a short to medium translation. You can save time at the end by keeping consistency notes throughout and by using the spellcheck in your translation software.

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