Translation Workflow

You can find the workflow I use for translation jobs with direct clients below. Translation agencies usually divide the tasks up differently, and many hire a second translator to review the translation. I prefer working with authors directly because I believe the collaborative process is important for creative texts.

In my experience, the best academic and literary translations emerge from a direct collaboration with the author, provided that the author understands the translation process and has a strong command of the source and target languages. This is because the author knows her style best and is often better versed in the relevant specialist literature and jargon than the translator. If the translator has subject knowledge, this is a great help, but translation experience and training are also crucial.

If you are are interested to know what makes a good translation, I have covered that separately here.

Here’s my workflow:

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! I base my schedule on (comfortably) translating 2000 words a day.

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. After the first round, some translated sentences are still ordered in a “Croatian” or “German” style. 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. After this round, I send the text to the author to review. At this point, I stress that the author should focus on the precise translation of concepts, ideas and style: not on a literal, precise translation of every element in each sentence.

Part 3 – monolingual editing

Finally, assuming the text will be published for a wider audience, I do a final copyedit (lektura – typically in MS Word) of the translated text for consistency and remaining syntax issues. Ideally, I do this a week or more later as the break gives me a fresh view on the text. All the consistency issues that copyeditors focus on (e.g. -ize/-ise endings) can also 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 as it is impossible to focus on all the different levels of language at the same time. It can also be useful to have another round of copyediting, proofreading, or both, completed by someone else before final publication.

Occasionally I am asked to check the final document after it has been formatted for publication, checking PDF proofs for layout and language errors. This is called proofreading or korektura. I normally charge for this separately, and if you want the very best job, it is a good idea to hire someone else (i.e. not the translator) for this.