IS YOUR TEXT TRANSLATABLE?
If writing literary text requires skill, then so does producing functional texts for working life. At times, a factual text needs to be effectively translatable into other languages. In such cases, writing functional texts becomes even more challenging. Thus, if you know during the writing stage that your text will be translated, you should definitely take that into account.
The characteristics of a text that is functional as such or easily translatable are quite similar in many respects. However, the criteria can also differ, especially when the text type in question, such as an advertisement, requires creative language use. In this article, we will discuss why the translatability of working life texts is significant. You will also learn what should be considered when writing a text that will be translated.
A forward-looking writer considers translatability
Communication always has an objective. For example the purpose of a user manual is to instruct the correct and safe use of a product. On the other hand, the aim of a marketing text is to sell the recipient products, services, thoughts and ideas. Each text is designed so that its content and expression support the achievement of the goal.
When communicating in one’s native language or another language one is familiar with, the writer, or the organisation they represent, has the opportunity to ensure that the text meets its objectives. Then, even if the text is outsourced, the publisher can still check, specify, revise and fine-tune it down to the last tone and connotation.
But when a text has to be written in a language in which one is not fluent, it is best to let someone else take the lead.
If a text is important enough to be written and translated, then conveying its message is also too important to be left to chance. First of all, the outcome can be influenced by carefully choosing the person who will translate the text. It is also advisable to take a moment to consider the translatability of the text during the writing stage. This way the translated text will convey exactly the same message the original text intended to convey.
Furthermore, it is also important to consider how effectively a text can be translated. This means, for instance, how quickly and fluently a text can be translated. These matters can also be affected during the writing stage.
What makes a text easily translatable?
How well or poorly a particular text will work when it is translated can be affected in various ways and at various levels:
- style and way in which the language is used (e.g. abstract vs. concrete)
- clarity and length of the clauses and sentences
- terms, concepts and other word choices
- paragraph structure and the general structure of the text
- layout and formatting
- attaching instructions and reference material
Generally speaking the rules of thumb ‘less is more’ and ‘the simpler the better’ also apply to translatability. This is reflected in, for example, the fact that in certain text types the use of synonyms can give the text desirable variability. Yet, it is advisable to avoid excess variation in a text which is destined for translation.
The general instructions encouraging simplification are aimed at optimizing intelligibility and unambiguity. They do not, however, apply to matters outside the text, meaning instructions and reference material, which should not be skimped on.
We will discuss further the factors affecting the translatability of a text in our next articles, so be sure to stay tuned!