TRANSLATION MAKES A PRODUCTION PLANT PROSPEROUS
This was my first big technical translation project. I translated technical documentation for a lead acid battery production plant—installation instructions, operation manuals, process descriptions, etc.
When I started translation there was only a new plant building. The company needed English to Russian translation of all documentation for new equipment. As it is a local plant—just a few hours by train from where I live—I visited the plant to see what I was translating about. I could also consult with managers and workers.
The result was great. The company is prospering. All equipment is installed and working properly, and there have been no damages or injuries because of translation errors.
All in all, I translated about half million words then. More than a decade later, my translation is still being used by the plant personnel every day. I know it, because I stay in touch with the manager who was in charge for that translation project, even after he retired.
It was great experience for me, and it’s pleasant to know that my work helped a new company become prosperous and even win awards. Now they have a web-site where you can read about the company in English. But please note that I did not translate their web-site.
As the files are urgent, I need a few people working simultaneously. Trust me, I am very happy with your work and I wish I had the time to just use your services or clone you.
This was the highest compliment I’d ever heard from my clients. I received it from Tamara von Schmidt-Pauli (Prime Language Services) back in 2010. And she kindly permitted to quote her here.
It was a rather challenging project all around. I’ll highlight the main challenges and explain how I managed to satisfy client’s requirements, so that you could understand what underlay the above compliment.
- It was a highly technical translation project dealing with offshore surveillance. And I had to translate it from Ukrainian into English, which is not my native language.
- The source text was a terrible mixture of Russian and Ukrainian. These are my equally native languages, so I managed to ‘decipher’ quite a lot of terms that you would not find in any dictionary, because they were written in a mixture of two languages.
- The files were sent as PDFs, and the client wanted translation formatted as close to the original as possible. However, the client could not provide the source InDesign files. So I had to deal with PDFs.
Each page had a frame with vertical and horizontal tables filled with text, the page body contained text blocks, images with captions, tables, or drawings. And it was plain impossible to recreate all that by means of MS Word.
Luckily, I managed to preserve all the formatting (tables, drawings, horizontal, vertical and even inclined text) using tools that allow editing text directly in PDF files. That was not easy, but the result was superb. The client was happy, and I received the highest compliment in my career.
DEEPEST TRANSLATION LEVELS ONLY GOOD TRANSLATORS REACH
Once I was asked to translate a short text about chocolate—its history, production, and types. Just a few pages took me whole two days to translate, but the result was incredible.
A colleague of mine said translation read better than the original. But that’s not true. I just preserved the power of the source text. And this is true for most texts, not just marketing copy. If the text doesn’t read well, it does not get to the reader’s subconscious and conscious mind.
Here’s how I made my translation effective.
- The English source text was written for English speaking readers. So I not only translated, but also adapted the text for Russian speakers. For example, there was a sentence about how the word ‘chocolate’ came into English. If I just translated the words, it would be a text in Russian for English speakers. Instead, I wrote a sentence about how the word ‘chocolate’ came into Russian and acquired the present pronunciation under the influence of the German word ‘Schokolade’. I wrote in Russian for Russian speakers.
- I used the secret weapon, known and used by a few translators—sound symbolism. What’s that? In short, it’s a branch of linguistics that claims sounds have meaning. It was proven that the meaning of sounds goes directly to your subconscious mind. Sounds create mood first and only then your conscious mind perceives words. That is why when you read about chocolate ‘brittle bite’ and ‘tender melt that coats the palate with lasting flavor’ you can almost hear how chocolate bar breaks and feel how it melts on your tongue. This is all sound magic that should be preserved in the translated text.
Please use the links below or contact me for details.
Update: Please see my new Mykhailo Voloshko’s translation web-site that is up and running and replaces this one.