It was July 2018 when Translation Talk went live. The idea behind it was simple yet ingenious: every week a new translator or interpreter, nominated by peers, would tweet through the Twitter account @translationtalk (a process known as “rotation curation”) by presenting the professions of translators and interpreters through the experiences and opinions of professionals in the field in an honest, respectful and interesting manner. Alexander Drechsel and Jost Zetzsche are the masterminds of the project, and for that, we thank them!
Alex: I’m a very active Twitter user and have been encountering rotation-curation accounts time and again. Eventually, I put the idea out there – on Twitter, of course – thinking that a professional association might run with it. About nine months later (!), Jost also tweeted the idea. Given his clout on social media, it got many more reactions and people provided lots of useful feedback. I had collaborated with Jost on another community project—www.xl8.link—in the past and so doing it again was a total no-brainer.
Jost: I think that both Alex and I were very (very pleasantly) surprised how enthusiastically the concept of TranslationTalk was embraced by the community. Not only do we typically have curators scheduled for months in advance, but there have been so many passionate and well-informed discussions that are proof of the beautiful diversity and depth of our tribe(s).
Almost a year later, several of our colleagues, with different backgrounds, language pairs, and professional experience, and from all corners of the world, have curated the account, gifting us with interesting discussions and invaluable advice.
Such was the case on March 26 (2019), when Grant Hamilton was curating the account and issued this first tweet:
I believe there are certain golden rules you should follow in translation, no matter what your language pair. Golden Rule #1: Be the reader’s advocate. If the text is a struggle to understand, YOU do the struggling, then clarify for the reader.
Grant introduced himself as a practitioner who likes to talk about practical things, “so I’m going to make that the focus of my week.” He did not disappoint.
His tweet about the Golden Rules For Translators sparked a discussion that had hundreds of likes and comments. The result was a document listing 14 rules that we professional translators should follow at all times.
“Many translators work in isolation, so it’s important to have these dialogues. A small piece of advice can make a big difference, so sharing best practices is a kindness we should all show,” said Grant. He then tweeted, “Here are some of the golden rules we talked about today, with a little editorializing by me, this week’s host. Thank you for your input!”.
Grant, Alexander, and Jost gave us permission to replicate the content here. Enjoy!
Golden Rules for Translators
Courtesy of @TranslationTalk and Its Followers
- Be the reader’s advocate. If the text is a struggle to understand, YOU do the struggling, then clarify for the reader.
- If there are two translation solutions available, choose the shorter one.
- Ignore Golden Rule #2 if your professional judgment tells you that the longer solution is best.
- If it is possible to cut a word out, consider doing so. It may make your translation clearer and more elegant.
- Avoid using the passive voice where the active would be a more natural choice (may not apply to all language pairs).
- Only use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if the field and register of the text mean this is the best choice or if there is no everyday equivalent in your target language.
- Wait until a new word/meaning/point of grammar is widely accepted before using it yourself. You may like it and want to use it, but your client may not.
- If you find a good context for a rare or literary word, use it only once. Twice in the text is overdoing it.
- When translating a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech, you don’t always need to use the direct equivalent in the target language. You may not wish to use a figure of speech at all.
- If there are mistakes in the source text, don’t simply transfer them to your translation. However, if there are mistakes in the source text, and your client still has an opportunity to correct them, point them out politely and non-judgmentally.
- Don’t add information that isn’t in the source text unless it is essential to comprehension. You are the translator, not the writer.
- Never have a default translation for any given word. Context is king. Consider it EVERY TIME.
- If you genuinely can’t decide between two options, choose the one that looks less like the source language—but don’t do this too often. Instead, learn how to decide between two options.
- Always do your research, even when information is already provided by the client. Never assume it is correct.
Of course, there are many more rules, and not just about translation. How to edit. How to proofread. How to talk to clients. Follow @TranslationTalk on Twitter to learn more.
If you’d like to suggest a golden rule, reply to the original Twitter thread.
I believe there are certain golden rules you should follow in translation, no matter what your language pair.
Golden Rule #1: Be the reader’s advocate. If the text is a struggle to understand, YOU do the struggling, then clarify for the reader.
— TranslationTalk (@translationtalk) March 26, 2019
A certified translator, Grant Hamilton owns and manages Anglocom, a Quebec City firm active in Canada’s premium translation market. Grant is well known in the industry as a speaker, instructor, author, conference organizer, and opinion leader. He is a long-time board member of Quebec’s OTTIAQ (Ordre des traducteurs, terminologues et interprètes agréés du Québec), and he edits a Twitter feed (@anglais) followed by thousands of translators.
Alexander Drechsel is a staff interpreter at the European Commission, working from English, French and Romanian into his native German. He shares other people’s opinions in the interpreting booth and his own opinions on language and technology on his website and on Twitter.
Jost Zetzsche is a translation industry and translation technology consultant, an author on various aspects of translation, and an ATA-certified English-to-German technical translator. Jost’s Tool Box Journal goes out to more than 11,000 translation professionals. You can subscribe at internationalwriters.com and find him on Twitter at @jeromobot.