A translator works with written text, while an interpreter works only with the spoken word.
Just because someone speaks a foreign language doesn’t necessarily make them a good translator and writer. A good translator must be a native speaker of the target language, with high fluency in the source language. (While there is some debate about the ‘native-speaker’ requirement within the translation industry, we at NZTC have consistently applied this principle in our work and believe that it is a key issue for quality.) Translators must also understand the techniques required for translating accurately and consistently. This takes experience and training, and is one of the reasons why unqualified company staff, distributors and foreign-language speaking contacts often do not make good translators!
Translators need an in-depth working knowledge of both languages involved and the cultures they come from, and must be familiar with the subject matter of the translation and its intended usage. For marketing materials in particular, including websites, they also need to have strong writing skills.
Even when using a good translator, it is important that his or her work is checked by a suitably qualified editor to ensure the translation is accurate, appropriate and free of errors. Ask prospective providers if they include this ‘revision’ or ‘editing’ stage by a linguist other than the translator as part of their translation process.
Translation is not simply changing words in one language into their equivalents in another. Quality translation involves knowing the context and cultural background from which the words in the original text came, and then choosing words and phrases in the new language which will best convey the substance and meaning of the original in a new and different cultural context. Unless all this happens, the message may get misinterpreted or even lost.
For us at NZTC International, a key feature of a good translation is that it should read like an original text.
There are steps you can take to increase your chances of receiving a perfect translation:
Producing a good translation takes time, so when ordering a translation, make sure you allow reasonable time for a good job to be done. A good rule of thumb is that a translator can produce up to 1,500 to 2,500 words per working day of text. An editor can, on average, check work at a rate of 7,000 words per day. More time should be allowed for highly technical or complex texts.
Keep the language as clear and concise as possible. In texts to be translated, it helps to avoid long sentences with strings of sub-clauses. These can cause structural difficulties, especially when translating into languages such as Chinese and Japanese.
Think internationally from the start, and avoid culture-specific clichés or images that mean little outside your own country. By simplifying your writing style and avoiding local idioms or colloquialisms, you will make the task of translation easier for the translator and reduce the chance of misunderstandings within your markets.
If possible, finalise the text before starting. Revising the source text during a translation can lead to delays and cost increases, particularly when dealing with multiple-language projects and projects requiring complex layout.
The more the translator and editor know about your intended message and target audience, the better. Always tell your translation provider what your text is for, who will be reading it and where the target audience is located. This enables the translator to prepare a foreign-language version which best suits the intended audience and the type of communication. Whether the translation is for a brochure, website, speech, video or product manual will influence the style of translation needed.
Any supporting information about your product or service, promotional support and your target customers can be very helpful to the translation team, and you should have an appropriate person available to answer any context or technical queries that the translators and editors may have in relation to your text.
In-market reviews by a suitably qualified person can be a good idea, with well-run reviews often enhancing the translation process. This can be a way of getting more involvement from distributors and agents as well. Poorly managed reviews, however, can easily have a negative effect, and it is important to remember that language can be very subjective and open to wide differences in opinion. For this reason, it’s helpful to discuss any potential review with your translation provider so that they can give you advice, and proposed review changes should ideally be discussed with your provider before they are implemented.
You should first discuss with those providing the quotation possible ways that you can contribute to reducing or controlling costs.
Other ways you can help minimise your translation costs include the following:
The simplest way to receive documents in Asian languages which you can print yourself is to ask for the translated document to be supplied in PDF format. PDF (‘Portable Document Format’) has been developed by Adobe, and files in this format can be read and printed out from both Windows and Macintosh without the need for special Asian fonts. You will need a copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader, an easy-to-use application which Adobe supplies free of charge. You can download a free copy from Adobe’s website at www.adobe.com. When you receive your document in PDF format, you will be able to display the document onscreen and print it out. However, you will not be able to change the text or alter the layout.
This is possible only if you have a Japanese operating system or Japanese fonts installed on your PC. Most clients outside Japan do not have the proper setup on their PC to allow them to format Japanese text in such applications as Word, PageMaker, Illustrator, etc. You will also need to be able to read Japanese (or have someone who can help you) to ensure that the layout is correct. For most clients, the safest way of preparing documents in Asian languages is to have NZTC International do all the formatting and layout.
Before you give the go-ahead to commence typesetting of your brochure, talk to the graphic design agency or printer you are dealing with and ask them to specify how they would like to receive the file. The options include PDF files, EPS files, ‘outlines’ in InDesign and Illustrator, Freehand, PageMaker or QuarkXPress files, etc. You will also need to ask if the file is required in Macintosh or Windows format. In most instances, it is best to get your printer or graphic artist to talk directly to our Art Department so that the technical specifications can be clarified before the job commences.
Generally speaking, there are two forms of written Chinese: ‘Traditional Chinese’ is the written form of Chinese used in almost all Chinese-speaking areas of the world outside the People’s Republic of China. It is also used in Hong Kong. ‘Simplified Chinese’ is the written form of Chinese used in the PR China and Singapore. If you have documents which are to be used in both Taiwan and the PRC, you will normally require two separate versions. When in doubt, the safe option is to choose ‘Traditional Chinese’. (See the next two questions for more details.)
Simplified Chinese is also known as Modern Chinese. It was developed from the traditional form in the People’s Republic of China in the late 1950s with the aim of increasing the level of literacy. The use of the more complex traditional form was limiting, and it was understood and used by only half the population. Around 7,000 Simplified characters replaced some 13,500 Traditional characters.
When the People’s Republic of China was recognised by the United Nations in 1971, Simplified Chinese became the official written language used in China. In addition, Singapore made it the official written language of that state. Elsewhere in the Chinese world, Traditional tends to be the norm.
Traditional Chinese is also called Complex Chinese. As its name indicates, it is the traditional and more complex form of the written language, and is used by all Chinese communities outside mainland China, with the exception of Singapore. Traditional users tend to be proud of it and consider it to be a more sophisticated form of Chinese. It is partly for this reason that the Taiwanese refuse to use the Simplified form.
‘Mandarin’ and ‘Cantonese’ are the names of two different spoken dialects of Chinese. Written Chinese, however, can generally be read by both Mandarin and Cantonese speakers. The more important question to ask is where the document is destined for: the People’s Republic of China (Simplified Chinese required) or outside the PRC (Traditional Chinese required).
If the same document is being used in Malaysia, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, it is very difficult to get everyone to agree on the same usage. Just as ‘footpath’ is appropriate for England, but ‘sidewalk’ is used in the USA, there are many regional differences in Chinese. Sometimes, it may be necessary to make minor modifications and prepare separate versions for different markets.
Yes. However, the new text will be in a graphics format (i.e. ‘outlines’ or EPS format), and you will not be able to modify the layout easily once you have received the finished file.
Arabic presents some special challenges, since the language reads from right to left. This often impacts a ‘mirror-image’ dimension to the layout or typesetting. Multipage publications may require a re-ordering of the pages, which to Western eyes read backwards from the ‘back’ cover to the ‘front’. The sequence of images may also need to be ‘reversed’.
There are a number of file formats available for Asian languages:
Those who are serious about doing business with the Japanese will have their name, title and company in Japanese on the reverse side of their business cards. The exchange of business cards (‘meishi’) is far more formal in Japan than it is in the West. The ‘meishi’ should be presented with the Japanese side of the card facing up so that the recipient can read it without having to turn the card around. After receiving a card from another person, it is customary to spend a few moments reading it. Casually putting it into one’s pocket without paying attention to it would be considered impolite.
For the Japanese, a person’s business card is a means of indicating status. The person’s position and the company’s status are vitally important indicators of how others should behave towards him or her. In English, a job title does not always clearly indicate the person’s exact status within the company hierarchy. Therefore, the English title is rarely translated directly: instead, the closest equivalent in the Japanese system is used. It is common practice for our translators to check with clients to elicit from them their exact position within the company so that a suitable Japanese term with the same status can be chosen.
If you are considering setting up a website for localisation, you will need to consider how the different languages available on your website will be shown. We recommend that this is best done through listing the languages in their respective foreign language (e.g. - German = 'Deutsch', Spanish = 'Español').
While country flags can look attractive on a website, they don't always account for regional variations of a language. For example if you want to display that your website is available in Traditional Chinese, would you use the Hong Kong or Taiwanese flag? The same as Spanish - if you were to use the Spanish flag, what flag would be used to depict South America?
However, using flags on your website will not cause issues when it is aimed at specific target audiences, such as Germany and Japan, where the respective language is generally spoken in one nation. Talk to us if you would like further advice.
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