frequently asked questions – translation
How do you get better results from human & machine translation
How do I get something translated?
Broadly speaking, translation services fall into two main groups: human translation and machine translation. Machine translation uses technology and AI to provide translations of practical content such as legal documents, instruction manuals or business plans. Good machine translation will also build terminology banks specific to your content, and deliver high-quality, accurate content that sounds like you. Creative content such as marketing brochures, website copy or literary texts requires human skill and experience to capture nuance and style and convey potentially complex ideas, so human translation should be used in most of these instances. In both cases, cost-effectiveness and timeliness are important things to take into account. The first step, then, is to seek advice from a trusted language specialist. They should be able to advise on what solution works best for you and your specific needs. Guildhawk’s machine translation tool, Guildhawk Aided, is powered by expert technology to translate content to and from over 50 languages, leverages translation memory, and is protected by ISO27001 certification for data security. Our qualified human translators are specialists in the industries of our clients and only ever translate into their native language, ensuring meticulously researched, written and validated multilingual content.
How can I be sure a translation is accurate if I don’t speak the language?
The reliability and integrity of any translation agency is attested by a range of professional certifications – but it takes more than paperwork to guarantee quality, and trust is only gained through results. Guildhawk’s expertise and ability, for instance, is proven by over 20 years of prestigious awards and industry-leading certifications. All our translations are subject to three layers of checks: first, by the translator, who has been picked for their specific subject expertise; second, by a qualified, independent proof-reader; and third, by our in-house reviewers, who will perform final checks before signing off the finished translation. This robust quality assurance process is designed to offer complete peace of mind to our clients. However – particularly in the case of new clients who have not worked with us before – we are always happy to undertake sample translations of a section of content before beginning a large project, so you can ask someone you trust who does speak the language to review and approve before proceeding with the rest of the work.
How do I get my website localised?
Website localisation is a vital step in reaching new overseas markets, giving you an easily accessible channel to impress and speak to new client bases. But there are many things to consider and many decisions to be made before starting the process. For instance, will your site require international SEO? Do you want the content to appear local to local markets or would you prefer to convey an international image? Will you need images or links reviewed for cultural appropriateness or relevance and potentially replaced? To help you answer these questions, Guildhawk has compiled a useful checklist, which covers everything you need to decide before commencing website translation. Our team of specialist translators are trained in web and digital marketing to ensure that none of the original site’s structure or functionality is lost in the localisation process. We can also employ the same expertise to give a local voice to your entire digital marketing portfolio. Visit our Websites, Apps & Social Media page for more information.
How do I get a video translated?
Video translation can involve a combination of voiceover, dubbing, and translation of subtitles and on-screen text, and is a specialised service offered by most good translation agencies with a dedicated department. Translating a video involves matching the translated voice and/or subtitles to the original film and usually includes some element of localisation to ensure the right effect on the desired target market. Translating subtitles is a niche skill that requires the ability to convey the nuance, humour, style and rhythm of the original dialogue and restructure it to meet practical constraints such as readability and time on screen. Unless you’ve got your own studio complete with technical backup, and can source your own multilingual voice actors and subtitle specialists, your best option is to engage an agency that can handle the whole project under one roof. Guildhawk’s talented team of industry professionals provides translation and localisation of video content, voiceover, dubbing and transcription in all major languages, and we're happy to provide quotes for single- or multi-language video translations of any length and complexity. Visit our Audio-visual Translation Services page to learn more about how we can help.
How do I get a book translated?
If you already have a publishing contract, your publisher will often make the final decision on whether or not to translate your book for international markets, and will commission the translations. If you don’t have a publishing contract, there’s nothing to stop you from self-publishing a translation, provided you are prepared to take the financial risk and handle the marketing yourself. Make sure to choose a translation partner you trust, as ultimately, it’s your name on the front cover; the translated words will be read as yours. For example, at Guildhawk, our literary translation department works closely with authors to ensure that translations remain true to the original meaning and style and the final text has the very same impact on its new audience as the original had on its native one. We understand the importance of mutual collaboration and trust between author and translator, which is why we work hard on finding a perfect match before starting any job. We can produce samples so you can choose the linguist and style that best fits your own taste and working methods. We can also research potential new markets for our authors and suggest how to open doors to a wider readership. Visit our Literature, Theatre & Art section for more information.
What is desktop publishing?
Desktop publishing (or DTP) employs specialist software to produce finished publications digitally without using commercial printing presses. It offers a flexible and cost-effective solution for short runs of items, such as price lists or stock manuals, that need frequent updating, as well as benefiting from faster turnaround times over traditional printing. DTP is commonly the choice for self-published books or magazines, as the product can be printed and distributed on demand, circumventing overstocking and storage issues. The software can also be used to create various forms of online content such as website design and infographics for digital marketing. To learn more about the multilingual desktop publishing services offered by Guildhawk, visit our DTP Services page.
How do I translate a song?
Song translation is about much more than conveying the meaning of words. Translating a song is generally much closer to transcreation (cultural adaptation) or literary translation . You need a specialist for this kind of work; someone with a poetic ear, but also, crucially, an understanding of music, rhythm, and the highly specific requirements of song. You also need to bear in mind issues relating to copyright law, which still applies in the case of a song being translated.
It’s important for a song translation to be a living thing, and to go through many different iterations. For example, in our work with Stage Entertainment , songs are translated once – with all the essentials in mind – meaning, rhythm, cultural references, emotion and intention. This is then backtranslated literally for meaning. The latter is passed back to the original writers, so they can be sure nothing fundamental is being changed. Interestingly, as discussed in our Sector Spotlight with Eric Loustau-Carrere , this process of translation and backtranslation can actually be an opportunity to look deeper into the meaning of the lyrics, to really interrogate their intention, and the mood and emotion they create, and ensure these are captured in translation. After all, these elements are every bit as much part of a song as the actual words (in many cases, they are actually much more important).
But the “living” process shouldn’t stop there. Once this work is done, the song needs to be performed, placed in its real-world context, so you can look at what works and what doesn’t, rework it accordingly, and try again. Because, of course, there are a lot of parts to a successful song that have nothing to do with the words on the page. Obviously, it’s not just the meaning that needs to be translated – you also need to think about how those words sound (for example, if the original uses mellow, relaxed vowel sounds, this creates a certain mood, and you ideally wouldn’t want to replace with harsh, narrow sounds in the translation). It’s also essential to think about whether the length and rhythm of the translated words work within the melody. This can be a major issue when translating from English to a language like French, for instance, where text becomes a lot longer in translation. In such cases, changes need to be made to ensure the translated lyrics still rhythmically fit within the melody, or that the stress falls on the right syllables. For example, in Spanish, the stress can often fall on the last syllable of a word; something that sounds very unnatural in English. Singing the piece can be the best, most straightforward way to test these elements.
Also, depending on the end-purpose of your translation, there may be other items to consider. If the song will be performed as part of a musical, for instance, it’s important that the performer can make it work for them; it’s important the words can be pronounced clearly and understandably for the audience; and that the musical performance combines comfortably with the action on-stage (dance steps, stage directions, etc.).
All of which can mean that, on occasion, the best approach is a rewrite rather than a translation. This could range from an example where the message stays the same, but the exact words used to convey it change (such as in the example of the German “99 Luftballons” and the English “99 Red Balloons”); to a complete change of theme and meaning in favour of melody, rhythm and mood.
Once you’ve gone through all these stages, your translated song should be ready (though it’s important to keep an open mind throughout the song’s life, and be open to change, especially if context or requirements change). After all, the true purpose of song is to make us feel something, often without even realising why. How that effect is created in different languages, cultures and contexts may seem like alchemy to the uninitiated. But those who perform this alchemy on a regular basis know it can be done, and how best to do it. We are, ultimately, all human, ready and willing to feel, and feel strongly, given the right, well-applied triggers. It is the song translator’s job to ensure all those triggers are right for the context, and applied subtly for the greatest effect.
How do I translate a script for a play?
Translating plays is something people have done throughout history. Without translation, famous playwrights like Ibsen and Chekhov would not be celebrated around the world, and Shakespeare would be available to English speakers alone!
Translated plays allow us to experience cultures, perspectives and worlds other than our own; to journey to other places and very different lives.
And so, translation of a play is generally about a lot more than translating the meaning of words or phrases. It is a literary exercise, where the translator needs to convey the intention, mood and emotion of the original, in a way that a brand new audience (without the same cultural references) can understand and connect with.
There are many different approaches to translating a play. Largely, the approach taken depends on the purpose for which the play is being translated. If the purpose is educational, e.g. to enable students to read and study a play in a language other than their own, the approach is usually to translate as literally as possible, to convey exact meaning, context and references (usually with footnotes and annotations). If the plan is to perform the translated play, this usually means more creative licence can be taken, as the primary purpose is to create something that a real-life audience will experience in the same way the original audience did.
In either of these cases, as we’ve seen through our work with Stage Entertainment, the process of translating a play allows for closer examination of the original, meaning the translator gets an up-close look at what the original writer was trying to say, what effect they were trying to create, and which emotions they wanted to excite.
In instances where the play is to be performed, there are some additional decisions to make. Such as, do you keep the play in its original context? For example, if you are translating Chekhov, do you keep the Russian names, places and references, so it is clear to your audience that the play takes place in Russia (do you take them on that journey to another place)? Or do you locate it somewhere more familiar to your audience and try to create an equivalent experience to that of the original Russian audience (essentially, bring the journey to them)?
No matter what approach you take, the one non-negotiable is that you have a specialist translator on the job. Your translator needs to understand the intention and context of the original; the humour (if there is any!) and any wordplay. They also need to understand how to produce natural dialogue, i.e. to write the way people actually speak. And they should be able to navigate any technical requirements, such as a need to write in meter (think of Shakespeare’s famous iambic pentameter).
You also need to bear in mind issues relating to copyright law, which may continue to apply in the case of a translation.
For a play being translated for a specific performance, it’s also important to remain open to changes and suggestions of actors, directors, and other stakeholders. Anything to ensure that effective live experience.
Ultimately, despite its many intricacies, translating a play is similar to any other translation, or indeed any other job; the keys to success are making sure you have the right, most-qualified person working on it; that you maintain continuous communication; and make sure to keep your mind open to new possibilities and improvements.