In today’s globalized world, the demand for accurate, localized foreign language content is growing.
When we are creating any content, we focus on many aspects such as scope, languages, technology, success criteria, goals, and other expected topics. But a critical element of the successful localization, that unfortunately people always omit is a source text quality.
A source text serves as a base for translated content in all other languages. And as the number of target languages for translation increases, the impact of the source content does too. So when writing for successful translation, it’s critical that there is a plan, so-called content strategy. It’s all about writing it right — the first time.
Many factors result in a successful, quality translation project and one of the most important factors are the preparation and information gathering by the client, before providing source content to their language service provider. Before the translation process can even begin, it is vital that the customer adequately prepares the translation project request.
How to compose a content properly?
To avoid common pitfalls, there are some general guidelines you should keep in mind when writing for translation. Keep your sentences simple and direct to increase understanding — and use a style guide for consistency. Because clear, concise, well-constructed sentences improve translation quality, reduce turnaround time, and cut costs—which speeds time-to-market and accelerates revenue streams.
So, let’s get focused on the elements to mind and include when creating any type of content.
For increased comprehension and simpler translations, aim for about 20 words or even less. And boost readability.
When creating a content think of the things that are important.
Follow a classical sentence structure. This means a subject, verb, an object with associated modifiers. Ensure correct grammatical structure and proper punctuation.
This includes checking the basics because mistakes can travel across source and target languages. Translators often find and flag source errors, but that shouldn’t replace proofreading your source text.
- An absence of long noun strings
When there are no connecting elements in noun strings, readers must infer the relationship between the words. If it makes you read a sentence several times to understand it, chances are that there will be further complications when it’s translated into a different language. When this happens, there are numbers of misinterpretations of the original meaning—or a translation that appears too literal.
- An absence of a big number of terms and synonyms
Synonyms get in the way of clarity. Write the same thing, the same way, every time you write it. Finding different ways to write a single concept will not only affect the overall consistency of translation, but it will also reduce the related translation memory leverage. This can lead to decreased quality, increased cost, and increased turnaround.
Translation memories leverage words in segments, so changing even a minor word has an impact. Always consider re-using existing content that professional linguistics have already translated for you—don’t write from scratch if you don’t need to.
- An absence of ambiguous subtexts
Translating humor may always become a very tense task. The same goes for jargon, regional phrases, or metaphors. Some expressions are not always universally understood or appreciated—they don’t translate.
When you create a content which you will translate – try to be concise, logic, and intercultural, so that translated content can’t cause any misunderstandings.
Another useful tip would be to be clear with international dates.
Style guides should document the handling of large numerals, measurements of weight, height, width, temperature, time, phone numbers, currency, etc. for each language pair.
- A short number of phrasal verbs
The peculiar feature of this grammatical phenomenon is a big number of meanings. Phrasal verbs complicate the process of translation. When writing – try to avoid them and formulate your thoughts in a more simple way. Simplicity is a key success factor. It helps create a connection of any future reader, listener, and partner.
- Active voice
Passive voice complicates the understanding in both source and target languages. Because of the cumbersome grammatical structures, the reader can easily lose the understanding and ease of following your thoughts and ideas.
- A complete absence of ambiguity and confusion
Many words, parts of speech, and grammar mechanics we don’t think twice about have the potential to cause confusion for translators and non-native English speakers.
- Avoid -ing words
In English, many different types of words end in -ing: nouns, adjectives, progressive verbs, etc. But a translator who is a non-native English speaker may not be able to recognize the distinctions and may try to translate them all in the same way.
- Avoid other words and mechanisms
- Slang, idioms, and cliches
- Contractions (English contractions may not be recognizable to all translators)
- Shortened words, even if they’re common in English (use “application,” not “app”)
- Uncommon foreign words (use “genuine,” not “bona fide”)
- Unnecessary abbreviations (use “for example,” not “e.g.”)
Determine your language combination. When appropriate, be sure to target a particular region or country to ensure the proper use of language based on the target region and culture.
Choosing the proper style of speaking to the listener depends on who is he. Are your readers young or old? Industry experts or the common public? Local or international? With a clear target audience in mind, the translation team will be equipped with that knowledge when localizing the content for that target audience.
Consider the subject and target audience. Legal, medical and technical translations usually require a serious, formal tone and sometimes, use of the passive voice. In contrast, marketing content allows more freedom in diction and tone, including the use of an active voice to feel natural.
To sum it up, here are several final recommendations. Try to be simple, so that everyone will easily understand your thoughts, ideas, and offers. Think not only about the target audience but also about a translator you will work with.