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Krystel Gosselin

Krystel Gosselin
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Translating for the Web: What's the Difference?

Published by gosk02@uqo.ca on 2012-04-03

One of the first thoughts that came to mind when I started considering studying translation was "translating for the web shouldn’t be that much different from general translation!"


I couldn’t have been more wrong.


The basic skills required are the same. The goal is to accurately translate from one language to another and convey the message the author wished to transmit to the readers. You still need to understand the author’s message and do your best to retain the characteristics of the text as you transfer it to the target language. In that sense, I was right.


Shouldn't translating a webpage be as easy as sending a Word document with the source text?

Those were my thoughts as I accepted my first-ever translation contract for a contact of mine in a restaurant, before I even started university. Looking back nearly four semesters later, I see how it truly wasn't the way to go, and why.


I received the zip file containing several Word documents, and each one had the text for a specific page. I translated to the best of my ability, and sent the text back to my contact. It was only several months later that I saw how the result could have been improved.


The text was in large blocks, and my translations were lengthy. I should have omitted some words to make sure that the core information was easy to read on the pages.


Some of the formatting could have been done differently, and sometimes the focus was on the wrong part of the text. This could have been avoided if I had been in contact with the webmaster, but alas, we never met.


I never had the chance to see the mock-up of the website prior to translating, and I find it would have been a vital element to my translation. Space restrictions, font and contrast all would have had an impact on my decisions, such as wording. I might have made the webmaster’s task more difficult when I put in spaces and paragraphs where there shouldn’t have been.


I still firmly believe that we learn best by trial and error, and I urge you all to try this at least once. You will learn a lot, just as I did!


1 comment

Three years ago, a colleague and I had a contract to translate into English a Facebook-like European website for exchange students. The French developer sent us a bunch of Word files with the texts and Excel files with (long!) lists of words and short sentences to be translated. He instructed us to "simply" translate the words in the designated English column. What are we, dictionaries?
I totally agree with what you say in your posting.
The beta version of the Website wasn't even up at the moment we translated, and that would have made our life simply easier while translating. Isolated words, sentences, even full texts, don't have any meaning.
This raises the problem of discourse analysis that I have been explaining in my last couple of blog entries...
I too learn a lot translating for the Web.