5 ways a professional translator can improve on original texts

It is often assumed that an author's original text will lose feeling, meaning and style in the process of translation. However, when it comes to working with experienced professional translators this is certainly not true. In fact, translations can often be improvements on originals. Here are five areas where originals can be improved on by translators.

1. Layout

Texts written in mainstream wordprocessing or page layout software (MS Office, InDesign etc.) retain their original formatting on the page with pixel precision in translation. The software (computer aided translation, or CAT tools) used by translators abstracts the editable text from the layout code and replaces only the text to be translated. This can then be previewed by the translator and any text that needs shortening or reducing in size can be noted and edited accordingly.

2. Idiom conversion

It might not be a good idea to market a slogan such as 'This widget will blow your mind!' to a more literal or descriptive language. Translators take these figurative expressions and match them to their most apt equivalents in the target language, so while 'This widget will impress you' may not sound like the message the author was trying to put over, the target audience will have the same emotional response as originally intended, all thanks to considering culture and local values in the translation. Now the text could arguably be classed as 'improved' at this stage as it is already more fitting for the target culture.

3. Typesetting and branding

Punctuation varies from language to language, and often within dialects of a language. Professional translators are fully aware of this and will correct any issues with numbering, letter case or potentially confusing names or brands. Also potentially confusing are images of people that might not fit into the local culture. These can be serious conflicts or just eye-brow raising, but in each case the translator will include their remarks and offer alternatives in their notes.

4. Consistency

The CAT tools mentioned above also help to maintain consistency in keywords used, helping readers to quickly and clearly understand what is being described. All other forms of consistency can be maintained in this way, over many thousands of words and many different projects and files. Ask your translator to maintain a separate 'translation memory' if you want to make the most of this.

5. Creativity plus

Translators can build on the author's creativity and copywriting talent. Taking all of the cultural considerations into account, the translator can go on to match the original style while bending it to the norms of the target audience. This adds a lot of value to a text which, translated word for word, would have little impact on sales in the target region compared to a professionally translated text.

It's clear that with domain expertise and local linguistic and cultural knowledge, the professional translator can turn a well-crafted original text into an equally well-crafted target text that includes many additional considerations. The translation can therefore be deemed an improvement on the original, especially in the context of the new market.

Add new comment

Sharing license

This post is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution license. We have done this to encourage translations into any language, with a credit link back to the original. Feel free to print and share copies in your business, school or university, or to publish your own translation, and be sure to let us know if you do!

We would like to actively discourage reposting it verbatim, at least not without a canonical link, to show search engines that this is the original post. An alternative way to use the post's information is to use it as a key source for a completely re-written post, still giving credit as per the license. Thanks for your understanding.


Get the latest on translation, freelancing and business.
(You'll also get our Translation Marketing Checklist)