Academic Translation Guidelines

Hi there!

Here is a summary of what I have done so far, and – more importantly – what input I need from you now.

What I have done so far:

I have translated your text and checked each sentence three times. The steps are: (1) translation, (2) bilingual translation checking, and (3) monolingual editing for readability (more details below if you’re interested). If your text includes any pictures or diagrams, I will have studied them carefully while translating.

What you should do now:

  • Please read through the text carefully and pay special attention to terminology and subject-specific terms. My knowledge and expertise are in language and wider social-sciences and humanities academic conventions. I probably don’t know your subdiscipline as intimately as you do, and so you should double-check all terminology.
  • I have inserted comments where I have a question or suggestion for you. Please try and resolve all comments by yourself, making changes to the main text where necessary.
  • If I have been unable to find a direct quotation in English easily online, I will have added a comment asking you to insert the quotation.
  • When reading the text, please keep your interventions focused on (i) errors and (ii) any style decisions you cannot live with. Remember that the translation now also includes my voice and style, as well as yours.
  • Please use track changes when making your edits.
  • You can include comments for me, if necessary.

The final step:

After your interventions, I will do a light copyedit, ensuring that the text fits the style guidelines for your chosen publisher or academic journal. Then the text will be ready to publish!

My workflow in detail:

Part 1 – translation

After I receive a text, I use translation software (SDL Trados) to work on the file (see below). This software breaks the text up into manageable segments. It also reformats the translated segments, so I don’t have to mess around with fonts, styles and footnotes in MS Word. I can also highlight specific jargon in the text, e.g. kulturni kapital (HR) – cultural capital (EN). This is then stored in a terminology database and suggested as an accurate translation next time I come across the same term.

Note: the following screenshot is of a non-confidential translation.

Trados is also useful because it lets me store a databank of translated phrases: a translation memory. It also lets me create a database of project-specific terminology.

Finally, if I am unsure of a word or phrase (most often, this is subject-specific terminology), I insert an author query, as the author often has a deeper knowledge, through reading in English, of subject-specific jargon and conventions. It is worth remembering that the translator’s knowledge and expertise is in language and general publishing conventions, not in the minute details of each translation specialism. This is why collaboration is so important!

Part 2 – bilingual revision

After the first round is completed, I then crosscheck the translated segments in Trados with the original ones, correcting any errors. This is sometimes called translation revision or bilingual checking. After the first round, some translated sentences still have some syntactical features or vocabulary choices that are too close to the source language. For example, quite a few Croatian sentences begin with the construction “Zbog toga” (lit. Because of that). This is comprehensible in English, but it sounds clumsy and unwieldy. While this is an obvious example, there are more subtle sentences that can pass through undetected.

Part 3 – monolingual editing for readability

Finally, before sending the text to you to review, I read through the translation in MS Word with a focus on readability.

Part 4 – After review: the final copyedit

After you have have reviewed the text, I do a final copyedit with a focus on applying editorial style. I do this a week or more after the translation as the break gives me a fresh view on the text. All the consistency issues that copyeditors focus on (e.g. -ize/-ise endings) will be tackled at this stage. I use editing software: PerfectIt and The Editor’s Toolkit to ensure a high level of consistency. This is not achieved during the translation phase. Why? Because it is impossible to focus on all the different levels of language at the same time. It helps to have another round of copyediting, proofreading, or both, completed by someone else before final publication.