“ASAP Translate!” Such is the unfortunate request that many a translator has to constantly fulfill, pressured by overzealous clients. Translations are usually needed on the fly, and translators are expected to work fast and do it well.
How can we ensure a proper, impromptu, translation? For this we need to learn a fast translation procedure which maintains high standards.
Moreover, who can we go to, and solve an “ASAP translate” situation? Where may we find fast and reliable translations?
What is Translation?
Translation is essentially transforming text, from one source language into the other. The people who do such work are translators. Depending on the country, they may need to be certified.
Using CAT Tools
CAT stands for ‘Computer Assisted Translation’. They are not to be confused with machine translation (like Google Translate) for example. Indeed, CAT tools do not translate per se, as machine translation would. What they do is simply ease the process for the human translator.
CAT tools are a good tool when we confront an “ASAP translate” situation. The main advantages of using CAT tools are, amongst several others:
- Translation Memory: This compiles a memory of the phrases that the person is translating. When such a phrase appears again, the translation memory suggests using the phrase already translated earlier.
- Glossary: A CAT tool also allows the human translator to compile a glossary of terms. Thus, when such a term reappears later, the system suggests the translation in store. This is similar to the translation memory, although it is a more deliberate process and deals with terms and words, instead of segments.
Polishing the Original Text: A Good Idea?
As a translator, I often receive texts which are not well written. This is very problematic, particularly if it is a long text, which will demand a lot of translation time. Imagine a master’s thesis with serious grammatical problems in the original language. Often, I try to correct at least the most extreme errors, before I set out to translate. This will save me time later, when I am translating.
Naturally, this situation presents several problems: (i) In a way, it is not a translator’s business to tamper with the original language. This is quite true, and many translators are of this opinion. (ii) Polishing the original may demand extra time, which is highly problematic in an “ASAP translate” situation. (iii) Sometimes, if a translator polishes the original language and then submits a translation, the creator of the original material will not recognize him or herself in it. Often they may accuse the translator of ‘ruining’ the original text, by correcting its errors!
In an “ASAP translate” situation the best idea is simply to translate the document as it is. As long as the translated version has correct spelling, it is good to go. Sometimes, if there is time, a translator may submit a translation which avoids the largest grammatical errors.
Precise or Natural?
One of the biggest debates in translation is whether to prefer precision or naturalness. In the case of an “ASAP translate” situation, the best thing is to err on the side of precision.
Looking for naturalness in the translation (ie: to make it beautiful, aesthetic) will simply demand too much time. Precision, on the other hand, is well within reach, even at urgent speeds of translation.
Can we devise a translation procedure that is both agile and also reliable? Is there a way to achieve fast and good translations? Here is the procedure I regularly use when translating.
The first step is quite simple: just go, just translate. Get the text translated from the source language into the target language as fast as possible.
It is important, however, to be careful not to be in too much of a frenzy. When confronted with an “ASAP translate” situation, one’s first instinct as a translator is to go at it like a maniac. This is problematic because there will be too many corrections to do later, thus wasting time.
The key here is to get all the phrases translated.
2. To Check or not to Check:
When I first started translating, I fretted about missing text. I was worried that I may have missed something in the translation process and thus gave it a full word-by-word check. Naturally, this is a killer in an “ASAP translate” scenario.
What I do now is translate and make sure the different phrases and segments are all translated, all in one swoop.
Read and Polish: There is now a translated version, and I am reasonably confident that it is all there (I made sure not to go too fast, nor too slow). Now I read through the text and make the necessary corrections.
Scheme / Colors: Often, a text translated from a source language, into a target language must retain the same layout and colors. This is crucial. In this step I make sure that the translated version retains the graphic design of the original.
Herein, the use of CAT tools is very useful, because they retain all that, leaving the translator free to simply worry about translating.
Letters and Pages: Am I including page numbers in the text, just like in the original? Am I retaining the correct letter styles? (again, CAT tools are useful here because that is precisely what they do).
Spell and Grammar Check: Finally, I run a spell-check and grammar check on my computer and it is over.
4. Seal It!:
If the document requires an official translator’s seal, I apply it. Note that such a seal is not necessary in many countries.
I take a look at the layout and margins. Does everything seem ok?
“ASAP Translate” Procedure
A would-be translator or client may read my previous scheme and go “Wait a minute. That sounds like a slow process. An ASAP translate situation requires much more speed!”
Well, in many ways they are right. Are there ways to speed things up a bit more? Let us take a look at the previous process and try to see if there are ways to streamline it and go faster.
Regarding Step 1
The key to a fast translation is here. It is important not to spend too much time per phrase. Also, it is crucial not to go at breakneck speed; a rough translation with too many errors will have to be corrected in the polishing phase and this will take too much time.
Regarding Step 2
Without trying to complicate this too much: in an “ASAP translate” situation it is best to unite step 1 and step 2. This means that when we translate we go at a good pace (not too fast, not slow), we give each a phrase a once-over, and, crucially, as we do, we make sure it is all there. We do not do a step 2 later. This saves a lot of time.
Regarding Step 3
When the translation is done, if we are in a particularly vexing “ASAP translate” scenario, it is possible that we will have to forego some aspects of step 3. If the document is particularly long, like a doctoral thesis, for instance, a read-through to polish is going to take too much time. In this case, a spell-check and grammar check on the computer will have to suffice.
Limits to “ASAP Translate”
As can be gleaned from all this, although it is possible to achieve a good translation rapidly, even urgently, the best solution is always to take the time.
It is unfortunate that clients are usually pressed for time. Partly it is the nature of the game they play: in certain industries, it is necessary to produce and send translations fast. Such is the case, for instance, of the legal profession, where a contract must be translated and sent out fast. In other cases, however, an “ASAP translate” situation is due to the sheer lack of planning and foresight by the client.
Solving my “ASAP Translate” Situation!
Now, imagine that you are in the midst of an “ASAP translate” scenario, as a client craving a fast and good translation. What to do? Even though it is possible to get a local translator who translates fast or even extremely fast, using procedures like the ones described earlier, the best idea is to look online.
An all-included online hub like Bunny Studio, for example, is able to provide great translations at a very good speed. They are also able to provide tailor-made solutions for large scale projects.
Avoiding Machine Translation
Even in a complicated and urgent translating situation, it is best to avoid machine translation. The temptation in an “ASAP translate” situation which has reached emergency-status is to use services like Google Translate.
It is true that services like this one are improving constantly. They are not, however, perfect yet and it is simply too much of a liability to translate with such a tool and expect a translation you can depend on entirely.
The Gist of It
Translations are usually needed fast, and translators are expected to deliver no matter what.
CAT tools are a good idea when dealing with “ASAP translate” situations. Machine translation, on the other hand, is to be avoided because it is still prone to error.
In an “ASAP translate” situation it is best to translate at a good pace (not too fast, not slow), to give each a phrase a once-over, and, crucially, to make sure it is all there and we do not miss segments or phrases.
If the document is particularly long, like a doctoral thesis, a read-through/polish is going to take too much time. In this case, a spell-check and grammar check on the computer will suffice. Remember: Precision over naturalness saves the day!
An all-included online hub like Bunny Studio is able to provide great translations at a very good speed. They are also able to deliver tailor-made solutions for large scale projects.