When localization is needed: why it is so hard to find a good translator

    The process of creating translated and original content does not differ too much: a truly high-quality translation requires not only knowledge of the language, but also creative effort. If the author of the original text has the task of clearly expressing his thoughts in, as a rule, his native language, then the translator should equally understand what the author wanted to say - and be able to retell it in accordance with the norms of the target language so that it is pleasant to read.

    Typical translation difficulties

    A classic example of the symbiosis of language knowledge and creativity during the translation is the activity of the Strugatsky brothers. In addition to creating their own works, they both worked as translators from English and Japanese under the pseudonyms S. Berezhkov, S. Pobedin and S. Vitin. And if you read the Soviet editions of Asimov “How They Fun”, Norton “Sargassos in Space” or Wyndham “Day of the Triffids” - these were translations of the Strugatsky.

    How to organize work with text

    The most amazing thing in the work of a translator is that if this is not an instruction for a microwave or iron, then in terms of complexity, the difference between translations of a blog entry and a book is small. The main differences are in volumes. In fact, all of the above comes down to a simple and banal truth: if the author of the original source must have knowledge of the topic and a high level of language proficiency, then the translator should have knowledge of the topic and level of knowledge of two languages.

    Let's look at the spherical situation in the vacuum of translation from English into Russian, when the translator is a native speaker of the Russian language.

    The pitfalls of translating from English into Russian are in the area of ​​belonging of these languages ​​to various groups. English belongs to the group of analytical languages, and Russian belongs to the group of synthetic( inflectional ) languages. Simply put, everyone knows that Russian and English have radically different word-formation norms, word placement in sentences and so on.

    Objectively, a quality translation into any language is formed from the following aspects:

    • the content of the original source;
    • correspondence of the final translation to the original source;
    • level of language proficiency on the part of the translator;
    • level of final language proficiency on the part of the translator.

    Even if the text proposed for translation seems to you, as a reader, simple, as a customer, you need to pay maximum attention at several stages:

    • selection of performer;
    • checking the result for actual errors;
    • checking the result for stylistic errors.

    Artist selection

    We will name a few basic features that make it preferable to choose a translator to localize the project itself and the content in it.

    The first one. If you are translating into a non-analytic language, it is advisable that the translator be its native speaker. Obviously, no one can know it better than the medium itself. In these languages ​​there is no rigid word order and rules for constructing sentences, therefore, it takes foreigners years or even decades to fully study them.

    The second one.Avoid exotic translation directions. If for some reason the project manager was “shocked” to arrange a translation from Hebrew to Chinese, then pour him tea and calm him down, apparently he has stress and he is not aware of it. The best option is to make a "strong" localization in English and when adding new exotic languages, start from it already. At the same time, you may well find translators working in the field of less standard language pairs, but geographically and historically formed. Such pairs can be called Spanish-Portuguese, German-French, German-Turkish and so on. You may be convinced that such an approach is redundant, and at your disposal there will be specialists who will cope with the task, but this is an unjustified risk.

    The third.Freelance is a minefield. A good freelance translator is almost like a unicorn: everyone believes in its existence, but few have seen it. Moreover, if you need a top-class translation, the amount of work done in the translator's portfolio is not at all an indication that you will get what you want. Very often, people who work efficiently are not able to translate so many texts in terms of working days. Therefore, if this is the first time you are looking for an artist for your project, then you will have to spend a considerable amount of time and effort on finding the right person.

    You will encounter the fact that some potential performers will refuse to perform the test task for several kilosigns for free, some will agree, and then disappear from the radar, and another part will try to deceive you by completing the test task with special care, which will not be observed during the work. There is still a category of translators who are ready to take on any work, without even delving into the essence of the order. After the start, it turns out that they lack the specialized knowledge or the desire to understand the topic.

    Fourth.Not all agencies are equally helpful. Translation agencies are located on the other side of the freelance and are positioned as a better service. A serious advantage of working with them is that your cooperation can be brought to a fundamentally different legal level. Yes, right now we are talking about official documents, contracts and all this paperwork. However, it should be understood that translators, in fact, are the same everywhere, and business processes, on the contrary, proceed much more slowly.

    Checking the result for actual errors

    In addition to searching for the translator himself, you will have to take care of finding an editor who would control the work of the localizers and conduct the job reception. This is especially true in cases where you yourself do not know or do not know enough the target language of localization and translation. Again, as with translators, the best option is a native speaker. Of course, you can do without an editor, but a similar approach is justified only for small volumes, for example, when localizing the interface, which can be fixed using user feedback.

    But do not blame the actual proofreading on the consumer: if there are too many errors in localization or translation, they can scare off a potential client. We focus on this because in recent years too many projects, in pursuit of release dates, are, in fact, in a state of “eternal beta”; developers on the go "finish" everything that is possible, starting from functions and ending with design and localization.

    Checking the result for stylistic errors

    And if a fact check for gross errors looks relatively simple, then the next aspect of localization and translation - checking for stylistic compliance with the norms of the target language, is still an adventure.

    English is very often used as the base for UI, content and FAQ. A person who speaks and reads fluent English often does not notice the difference between the English and the native version of the text, but foreign elements can be striking for a native speaker who does not speak the original language. Stylistic mistakes can await you everywhere: from the use of English-language constructions that are unacceptable in the target language of translation, to the frank abuse of Englishisms.

    English-language tracing-paper is a separate scourge of modern translators. If an example is given in Russian, then very often the following phrases and constructions are found in translated materials. Do you know, for example, that the established signature form “Sincerely, Named” is actually an example of an Englishism deeply ingrained in our speech?

    Grammatically, there is no reason to put a comma in the signature, but they put it because of the “traditions”, which, you guessed it, grew out of the English structure as well. There was no comma in the Russian language of the 19th century, it appeared in the 20th century, and it remained after “With Respect”, although there is no reason to put it apart from traditions and the desire to emphasize intonation. This is mentioned on many resources, includingthe ubiquitous Gramote.ru .

    As a result, the English version:

    Ivan Ivanov

    Turned into:

    С уважением,
    Иван Иванов

    Although there is no reason not to write simply:

    С уважением Иван Иванов

    Tracing paper has the ability to penetrate the language and take root in it (“human-vegetable” from the English “vegetable” and the verb “to vegetate” - “to vegetate”, “challenges of our time” from the English “challenge” - “a difficult task”, “Problem”), therefore, we give a few more examples of cripples and literalisms , the use of which distinguishes a bad translator from a good one.

    In English, a situation is extremely widespread when a new sentence or even a paragraph, related in meaning to the previous text, begins with the word “For”, which is translated into Russian “since”. For the Russian language, sentences starting with “since” are separated from the previous construction not with a dot, but with a comma. If you see “Since” in the translation, when “For” is written in the original, you should think about it.

    If your translator verbatim preserves the structure of paragraphs of the text, especially if the text is extremely fragmented - this is another cause for concern. In Russian, a paragraph is not only a way to focus the reader’s attention on a new section of the text, but also points to a new integral semantic block, which contains sentences that are closely related. In English, paragraphs are used differently, often to highlight a new thought, no matter how small it is. That is, if you need to translate and adapt not a conditional FAQ or guide, but, say, your expert’s blog, in which he shares his thoughts and gives practical advice, then a competent approach to the formation of paragraphs in the target language is extremely important and the translator should not be guided the structure of the source, and the norms of the target language.

    Well, it is obvious that a poor translator is distinguished from a good translator by the understanding and correct translation of phraseological units. In fairness, I want to note that in every language there are untranslatable phraseological units. For example, the American “Send The Elevator Back Down”, which was born in Manhattan with its skyscrapers, literally translates as “lower the elevator back down”, and in essence means “to help those below you in the hierarchy / in the worst position”. Or translate “Earworm” so that it harmoniously fits into the text, if not difficult, then it certainly is problematic.


    Do not expect to find a good translator on the first try, unless you get it on a reliable recommendation. The process of reading in another language and the translation process from this language are two completely different things. If you think that this is not true - try translating any English-language text or news into Russian so that nothing in it betrays a foreign origin. And you will be surprised how difficult it is in writing to adapt the text to another language.

    When translating and localizing, you always need to pay attention not only to the final cost and duration of the work, but also to the little things. Almost everything depends on the degree of involvement of the translator in the process: the more motivated he is to make an ideal translation and adaptation, the more context he has, the better for you.

    The volume portfolio of the artist does not always mean quality work. If you think that your texts have a fundamentally different level of complexity against the background of numerous manuals and FAQs, which usually translate, the number of projects completed by the contractor is not an indicator that should be guided by. You need to look at their complexity.

    Any translation work takes time, and a lot of time. If you read this text in 15 minutes, this does not mean that it can be translated in an hour or even two. The usual speed of a good translator is 8-10 thousand characters in the original language per working day. There are monsters that translate many times more, but in this case the probability of marriage increases.

    The most important thing is attention, patience and the availability of time. It is impossible to localize a project or translate a solid layer of content in an extremely short time so that then there is no shame on the result. Therefore, you should never put off these activities in the long box in the hope that it "will somehow resolve itself quickly." Will not resolve.

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