Published June 9, 2008
Please allow me to grouse a little about translations…and translators.
I’ve been in this business a long time. Over 20 years. And one of the constants in this business is that clients still have trouble figuring out how to hire a translator. And worse, some people who have NO business calling themselves translators are hanging their shingle out there trying to catch a bit of the action.
I’m working on a job right now – almost 50 pages of translated copy – that is positively the worst I have ever seen in my voiceover career! And it was done by a “professional translator”. It’s full of wrong words, bad grammar, syntax errors, bad punctuation, and on and on. It’s going to cost the client twice as much as he intended to pay, not to mention the lost time and wasted energy.
So, what should you look for in a good translator?
1. Make sure they speak the language fluently…and fluidly. There are a lot of people who have learned to speak Spanish in school, and they may know the grammar. But they don’t know the little nuances and attitudes of the language. I know I will anger some when I say this, but do yourself a favor and use only translators who speak the language naturally.
2. Make sure your translator can handle the demand of your translation. Most good translators are good in specific areas, but not others. For example, I can do conversational translations all day long, but I suck at technical stuff. And don’t even try to get me into a medical translation.
3. Make sure your translator is adept at translating for your desired media. You’d be amazed at the number of translations that I read for radio and TV that were written for print. Again, it’s those little nuances and attitudes that make the difference.
4. Spanish takes longer to say than English, so if your English copy is exactly :60, expect the Spanish translation to come in ten to fifteen seconds longer. That’s just the way it is. Spanish words usually have more syllables, and the terms are ofter wordier.
And one other thing along this line: Don’t think that after the translation you can just cut a few words or lines here and there and it will all work out. It doesn’t work that way. The phrasing and terminology will often not allow for that. Cut the English down by at least 25% before the translator starts on it.
5. And finally, use a translator that speaks fluent English. At the risk of insulting my Spanish brothers and sisters, many of them simply do not understand the English language well enough to understand the intent and concept of the copy. And then you end up with a translation of words instead of phrases and ideas. Use someone who can say what you want to say, the way you want it said.
Where can you find translators like that. Well, there are most certainly lots of them. And I’m happy to recommend a few. They don’t even know I’m doing this, but they deserve the kudos because they’re great at what they do.
Jan Notzon (704) 996-1151, gets it. He knows what he’s doing. I’ve worked with him several times and can highly recommend him.
Amy Taylor (860) 459-5018 is a great female voice in English or Spanish! And you can count on her translation skills as one of the best around.
Jurgen Stevens (915) 566-3110, is a unique talent. In spite of his name, he’s full-blooded Mexican, and he’s fluent in English and Spanish. He knows what he’s doing when it comes to translations.
Oh yeah, and there’s me. Yup, when it comes to selling cars or insurance or banking or furniture, lemme at it! But just keep me away from heart procedures and metallurgical processing systems!!!