Website translation

Write For Translation: 12 Tips to Boost Your Skills

Write For Translation: 12 Tips to Boost Your Skills
Merve Alsan
Written by
Merve Alsan
Merve Alsan
Written by
Merve Alsan
Reviewed
Merve Alsan
Reviewed by
Updated on
December 21, 2023

Welcome to the exciting world of translation, where the art of language meets the science of communication! We're all about embracing the joy of multilingualism and its fantastic perks, from sharper observation skills to quicker decision-making. And let's not forget the superpower of translation – it's not just for the pros! Got a grip on a couple of languages? Then, you're already on your way to translating anything from your website to your favorite book.

But here's the catch: translation is more than just juggling two languages. It's an intricate dance of words, context, and culture – a challenging feat even for those fluent in both the source and target languages. In this article, we've rounded up our top translation tips and tricks to help you create content that's not only accurate but also as natural and engaging as if it were originally written in the target language. Whether it's for business communication or your next web project, these tips will gear you up to shine in the global arena. Dive in, and let's turn those language skills into translation magic!

1. Conduct Thorough Industry Research

Our first translation tip is that you start your translation process by conducting research on your industry in your target language. This will help you use correct collocations and word pairings to produce a translation that will make sense to your global readers. You might even come across certain phrases that are used in your industry and including these in your translation can enhance your content and make it look more natural.

For example, consider translating the term "wearable technology" for a healthcare technology website from English to French. A direct translation like "technologie portable" might miss the specific healthcare connotation. However, through industry research, you discover that "technologies vestimentaires" or "dispositifs portables de santé" are the terms more commonly used in the French-speaking healthcare tech sector. This accurate translation ensures your content resonates correctly with the audience.

Start your translation process by conducting research to gather information on your industry in your target language.

2. Start With Machine Translations

Our second translation tip is that you don’t jump straight to translating your base content. Instead, create a machine-generated “pre-translation” copy first. The notion that machine translation software is inadequate is slowly becoming history since AI and machine learning entered the game. The accuracy of neural machine translation engines is at an impressive 60-90% — and it’s only getting better.

Although it has come a long way, machine translation can always benefit from human review. Here’s where you — the human translator — steps in. Context is an essential aspect of the translation process that requires a human touch. So bring that to the machine translation you just produced.

Recent research has indicated that post-editing machine-translated content can boost productivity by 36% compared to translating the entire text manually from the beginning. So why waste time doing more work than you should?

Start your translation process with machine translation, and then just fine-tune it to make sure it’s accurate and complies with the context. This approach will save you so much time and simplify your task! 

Machine generated translations on the Weglot Dashboard.
Machine generated translations on the Weglot Dashboard.

3. Get the Grammar Apps and Tools

Proofreading is just as important when translating as it is when producing original copy. In fact, when you look for translation tips, all the pros will tell you to pay attention to those nasty errors that can creep in when translating at scale.

Having grammar tools, such as LanguageTool, that check your translations can help you write flawlessly and give you more confidence. Because, let’s be honest, even native speakers can get confused about tricky grammar rules. And since these tools can make sure that your text is free from typos and grammatical errors, you won’t have to waste time going over and over your translations looking for mistakes. 

How LanguageTool helps correct your spelling.
How LanguageTool helps correct your spelling.

4. Adhere to Language-Specific Translation Standards

Languages have distinct rules and practices when it comes to translation. Professional translators must follow these common practices and adhere to the standards, so you must be aware of them too!

Even small aspects like punctuation, capitalization, and formats might follow different language rules. For example, in English, one million is written as "1,000,000," but in many European languages, it's "1.000.000." This minor difference in punctuation can lead to significant misunderstandings.

To ensure that your translation complies with these rules and communicates your message correctly, do your research, and be attentive to language-specific features while translating the text.

In addition, don’t forget to check out specific localization tips for your target language.

5. Collaborate and Get Editing Support

Getting an editor is one of the most effective translation tips. When it comes to a translation project, the more teammates, the merrier! One of the easiest ways of improving your translations is by having someone else take a look and edit them. Because another pair of eyes can capture the confusing statements and inconsistencies you might miss.  

This person can be anyone who knows the language — a friend, a colleague, or your grandmother!

However, there may be certain parts of your translated content that require a professional to take a look, for example, if you're translating content for a specific industry. For these challenging parts, don’t hesitate to get help from a professional freelance translator or a translation company.

6. Be Consistent in Style and Terminology

Translating content isn't a one-size-fits-all process. Different translators may approach the same content uniquely, leading to variations. However, consistency in style and terminology is key. Inconsistent translations can confuse readers and disrupt their understanding.

Before starting a translation project, establish clear rules, styles, and terminology. Creating a glossary helps maintain consistency, especially when working in teams. For instance, decide whether to use “ecommerce store,” “e-commerce website,” or “eCommerce business,” and stick to that choice. Similarly, determine a standard approach for abbreviations.

Think of this as developing a style guide, which includes your translation strategies, preferred terminology, and general rules. This guide ensures everyone involved in the project maintains a uniform style, enhancing the coherence and professionalism of your translated content.

7. Beware of False Friends, Idioms, and Slang

Translating idioms, expressions, and slang presents unique challenges, as they often lack direct equivalents in other languages. These elements are deeply rooted in cultural contexts and can vary even within regions of the same country. Misinterpreting these can lead to misunderstandings or even offend your audience.

The key is to understand the cultural nuances and intended meanings in both languages. If a direct translation isn't possible, seek alternatives that convey a similar meaning, or consider omitting the phrase if it doesn't fit the context.

A common pitfall is 'false friends' – words that look or sound similar in two languages but have different meanings. For instance, the English word "embarrassed" is often mistakenly translated into Spanish as "embarazada," which actually means "pregnant." This mix-up can lead to awkward situations, emphasizing the importance of double-checking translations for such nuances.

Remember, words in different languages may not always be direct synonyms. Careful consideration of context and culture is essential in translation.

Another translation tip: idioms, expressions, and slang are very closely related to the culture of a country.

8. Translate Keywords Effectively for SEO

One of the most important translation tips to remember when translating projects like websites is keeping SEO in mind. Unlike most words on your page, a direct translation might not work for SEO keywords.

To make sense of this, let’s start by understanding what a keyword means and why it is crucial. A keyword is a word (or a group of words) that visitors use to find the content they are looking for in search engines. By using the right keywords strategically on your website, you can reach the right audience and increase your website’s traffic.

However, the same terms may not hold identical search popularity across languages. For instance, a high-traffic keyword in English might not be as effective when directly translated into Spanish, as the search volume and user intent can vary.

A view of the keyword difficulty and search volume for the keyword 'translation tools' in the United States
A view of the keyword difficulty and search volume for the keyword 'herramientas de traduction' in Spain

To ensure your translated content performs well in search engines, engage in localized keyword research. This process involves finding equivalent keywords in the target language that mirror the search volume and relevance of the original terms. By identifying these language-specific keywords, you can maintain the SEO strength of your content in different linguistic markets.

While this approach requires more effort than simple translation, the payoff in terms of enhanced web visibility and audience reach is substantial. Remember, effective multilingual SEO involves adapting to the nuances of each target language and its audience.

For additional insights, check out our top 5 multilingual SEO tips to elevate your global presence!

9. Aim for Brevity and Clarity

Clarity and brevity are essential elements in translation. Using active voice and keeping sentences short are key strategies to achieve this. Active voice makes your sentences direct and straightforward, where the subject performs the action, enhancing understanding.

For example, instead of saying "The report was completed by the team," use "The team completed the report." This approach not only brings clarity but also reduces sentence length.

Similarly, brevity in sentence construction plays a crucial role. Long, complex sentences can lead to confusion and inaccuracies in translation. Breaking down lengthy sentences into shorter, more manageable ones can greatly improve readability and translation accuracy.

For instance, rather than "The manager, who had been with the company for over a decade and was renowned for his strategic insights, decided to implement a new policy," it's clearer to say, "The manager had been with the company for over a decade. He was known for his strategic insights. He decided to implement a new policy."

By focusing on active voice and brevity, you ensure that your translations are not only accurate but also engaging and easy to read. This dual approach is a powerful tool for maintaining the integrity and effectiveness of your translated content.

10. Leverage Resources for Translators

For anyone involved in translation, leveraging the right resources is a game changer. It's not just about your language skills; it’s also about how you utilize tools and resources to enhance your translations.

There’s a wealth of resources available for translators, ranging from online dictionaries and glossaries to forums and professional networks. These resources provide valuable insights into nuanced language use, cultural contexts, and industry-specific terminology. For instance, websites like ProZ.com or TranslatorsCafé offer community support where translators can discuss challenges and share experiences.

Moreover, leveraging translation memory software can significantly improve efficiency and consistency. These translation management tools store previously translated segments, which can be reused in future projects, ensuring uniformity across your translations.

Tapping into these resources empowers translators to deliver more accurate, consistent, and culturally appropriate translations. They're not just tools but partners in your journey to becoming a better translator.

11. Handle Dates and Times Appropriately

Effective translation extends beyond just words and phrases; it also encompasses the accurate conversion of dates and times, which are often overlooked yet crucial aspects. Dates and times can vary significantly across cultures, and misinterpreting them can lead to confusion or even missed deadlines and appointments.

To excel in this area, familiarize yourself with the standard formats of dates and times in your target language's culture. For example, while the United States typically uses the month-day-year format (MM/DD/YYYY), many European countries use day-month-year (DD/MM/YYYY). This difference might seem small, but it can have a big impact. For instance, "04/07/2023" would be interpreted as April 7th in the U.S. but as July 4th in Europe.

Examples of different date and time formats around the world

Time translation also requires attention, especially regarding the 12-hour and 24-hour clocks. While the 12-hour clock is common in English-speaking countries, many other regions use the 24-hour format. Ensure that you translate times accurately to avoid confusion, such as converting "3 PM" to "15:00" in regions using the 24-hour format.

Always double-check the dates and times in your translations to make sure they align with the cultural norms and formats of your target audience. This attention to detail will enhance the accuracy and professionalism of your translations, ensuring clear and effective communication across different cultures.

12. Translate Your Media Content

Translation isn't limited to just text; it also encompasses the wide array of media content that accompanies your message. From images and videos to infographics and charts, ensuring that all media content is appropriately translated is crucial for a truly comprehensive multilingual experience.

Start with images containing text. Whether it's a graph, an infographic, or an image with embedded text, these elements need to be translated to maintain coherence with the rest of your content. For videos, consider adding subtitles or providing translated transcripts to make them accessible to your target audience.

Don't overlook audio content, either. Podcasts, voiceovers, and other audio formats should be transcribed and translated. If resources allow, consider professional dubbing for a more immersive experience.

Remember, every piece of media content on your website or in your document should align with the cultural and linguistic expectations of your audience. This includes not just language but also cultural symbols, colors, and imagery, ensuring they are appropriate and sensitive to the cultural context.

For instance, if you have an infographic showcasing business growth, ensure that the statistics and references resonate with the local market and industry norms of your target audience. The same data presented to an American audience might need adjustment when aiming at a Japanese audience, both in language and in the presentation style.

Conclusion

It’s easy to think that translation only requires knowledge of languages. But in reality, it’s a very comprehensive job. The translation tips that you just read will help you get better at it — especially when it comes to translating your website.

By following our translation tricks, you can make sure that your translated pages read well and make sense to your target audience. Although it might require some extra effort, your English-language website will read like it has been written by a native speaker of your target language!

Also, if you’re translating a website, then you need Weglot! It will give you your first layer of automated machine translation and save you hours of work. Try out Weglot free for 10 days!

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