Writing Tips to Improve the Quality of Your Translated Content
Global audiences don’t always communicate the same. Different languages have a variety of idioms, phrases, and grammatical structures in place that all affect how messages can come across. Ambiguous phrases can lose their meaning, locale-specific text doesn’t always make sense without context, and certain expressions don’t always translate in the way you intend them to.
While there are so many translation and localization factors that come into play when translating your content from one language to another, it’s important to know that communicating a global message starts right at home. The success of your translation project begins with your words; what you say, and how you choose to say it in English will directly impact the quality of your translation.
When writing and developing your content for translation and localization, here are five things to keep in mind to ensure a great finished product.
1. Brief is Best
The best translations come from clear, concise sentences. Short sentences are the easiest to understand and analyze, eliminating the risk that your translator will lose the meaning of what you’re trying to say.
We recommend taking some time to go through your content sentence by sentence. You should aim to have sentences that are no longer than 20 words, and look for opportunities to cut some words out. As a best practice, if you can remove words from your sentence without them losing their meaning, they’re useless. So when in doubt, write short and sweet.
2. Consolidate Your Vocabulary
Sure, there may be a dozen different ways to say a word in English, but you shouldn’t use them all in your content. This may not be the case for the target language you are translating into, which can easily cause confusion.
You will always want to eliminate the risk of any misunderstandings, but this can be hard to do when you get into the groove of writing. It can be hard to notice if you’ve used a lot of synonyms in your content, so we suggest writing everything down first. Then, comb through your content to identify patterns, analyze which words you used the most, and choose only one word which suits your meaning the best.
3. Avoid Colloquialisms and Humor
Where translation is the literal word-for-word rendering of content from one language to another, localization is the adaptation of the content to the culture of its target language. When a linguist localizes your content, they will take multiple cultural considerations into account and address the unique elements of the culture and language in the specific locale. Their goal is to make the content feel familiar by catering to the cultural differences, history, and societal preferences of the reader.
With this in mind, colloquialisms, expressions, and humor vary drastically from language to language. It can be very hard for a linguist to accurately translate your meaning into another language, and you’ll want to be as direct with your words as possible.
4. Stick to the Standard Word Order
Again, it's wise to stick to the basics and not stray from traditional English word order. This means writing all of your sentences following Subject + Verb + Object, along with associated modifiers.
If you don’t follow this grammatical standard, the meaning of your content can drastically change. Plus, the mistakes you write in English can also be adapted into the source language, without the linguist catching the error.
5. Use Active Voice
In active voice, the subject is performing an action. As a more direct way of speaking, active voice puts the focus on the subject and is better understood from culture to culture.
For example, “ the dog chases the ball.” is a phrase in active voice, with the subject being the dog, the verb is chase, and the target of the action is the ball. In passive voice, the sentence would be “the ball is being chased by the dog.” which switches the focus to the ball, rather than the dog.
While this may not seem like a big deal, small grammatical idiosyncrasies like this can cause a skewed translation and a confused reader.
Making small changes like the ones above can mean all the difference between accurate and errorless translation and localization. As a fully integrated language service provider, Language Intelligence is here to help you with all of your localization and translation needs.
Our linguists are native-speaking, in-country, subject matter experts, so you can rest assured that your content will be accurate, culturally relevant, and ready for global distribution after working with our team.
We’re here to help you communicate globally and speak the language of your customer, learner, respondent, and employee. Let’s chat!