Have you translated newspaper articles?
Thread poster: Alex Jones

Alex Jones
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:40
Japanese to English
+ ...
Jan 20, 2004

Not quite yet a translator, but I am working through some newspaper articles.

The trouble is, after translating them, they seem kind of...boring. News items written in an English newspaper seem more punchy.

Are people who translate news items (Reuters etc.) asked to change the style to that of an English news item, or leave it as it is?


Levan Namoradze  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:40
Member (2005)
English to Georgian
+ ...
"flight of imagination" Jan 20, 2004

On my mind, you should not strictly follow the text. I mean, you should follow the general idea, but also involve the "national context" of a nation, in which language you translate the text.


Elizabeth Adams  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:40
Member (2002)
Russian to English
+ ...
depends on who you work for Jan 20, 2004

i've edited and translated business news, and those employers always wanted me to "punch up" the style, cut out wordy parts and rearrange articles to make them sound more anglo.

but i've also tranlated news items for a small news service that didn't want anything changed.

so it depends on who you work for. not much help, but it's the truth!


Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:40
Italian to English
Yes, regularly... Jan 20, 2004

Hi Alex,

I regularly translate articles from the Corriere della Sera website. These are then linked to the New York Times website's "Editorials from Abroad" column (the links are changed every day):


Here is one of the old articles, from which you can click through to the complete archive, if you're interested:


When I am translating, I use US spelling and NYT style conventions, of course, but above all, I try to make the translation readable, as well as accurate.

This often means unpicking complicated Italian syntax and repackaging the notions into sentences that are less hypotactic in form.
It's also useful to substitute standard lexical items with "journalese". To give you a banal example from the article above, I translated:

"L’America è piena di «antieuropei agitati»."
(literally, "America is full of 'agitated anti-Europeans'")


"America teems with "agitated anti-Europeans."

The meaning is conveyed accurately, but there is a journalistic "spin". Of course, you have to keep a very close eye on the stylistic balance of the piece as a whole, and not get too wrapped up in individual phrases.

I find that a "draft and tweak" approach works best (ie, a fairly literal first version, followed by tweaking of strategic words or phrases to maintain the reader's interest).

Of course, the work has to be done in a hurry (2-4 hours), so sometimes I'm left with the phrase I'm looking for on the tip of my tongue, but it's great fun.

All the best,



Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:40
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Agree with George (or is it Giles?) Jan 20, 2004

I worked at BBC Monitoring for 27 years and translated numerous articles from 'Pravda', 'Izvestiya' and other Soviet publications. A strictly literal translation would be terribly boring and turgid, so subject to accuracy about the meaning, which was of course very important, my aim was always to make the English more readable than the original Russian.


Textklick  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:40
German to English
+ ...
Style Jan 20, 2004

I believe that all translations should be 100% accurate, but read as if they had been written in the target language.

It is always best to check with the customer to what extent they are happy about having it stylistically "beefed up" or "tweaked" to inject some life.

(Having said that, I once checked this with a "conservative" client who said I was to stick to their so-called style guide. I did, and they said it read "wooden")

Keep yourself covered, but use creativity - better to err towards creativity, I'd say.


Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:40
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Practice by doing rewrites Jan 20, 2004

Alex Jones wrote:
I am working through some newspaper articles.
The trouble is, after translating them, they seem kind of...boring. News items written in an English newspaper seem more punchy.

The old rule that journalists don't translate - they rewrite - has a lot of truth to it. When you get right down to it, news article translation is quite a specialised form of translation.

My advice: try the rewrite learning method. It works like this: Analyse the news article and distill all information from it. Write down the information as if you're a journalist who is busy organising his thoughts. Ask and answer the 5W&H questions (who, where, what, why, when, how) and write it down. When you've done that, clear your mind and write the news article without looking at the original article. Write good prose. Make sure you include everything and exclude nothing.

One potential hiccup is the angle. If your client is intelligent, ask him if he wants you to use the same angle as that the original author. Some journalists try to be too clever or original and introduce angles that are very culture specific and you may feel that a different angle would be better suited to the target text.

After having done this for a considerable time, try translating directly. Hopefully your mind will find it easier to write a punchy news article in your target language.


Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:40
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
one has to know the audience Jan 22, 2004

If the original article is written about local affairs for local people, the text is often unintelligable to foreign readers even if translated well, since the reader has no background knowledge. Otherwise, if one seeks to serve the reader, most news are without interest to him or most of the text can be left out.
At the momemt I am translating Finnish newspaper clippings for an Austrian agency, but do not know the end client. The subject of the articles is a leading firm for construction materials, which is also acitve in Germany. So I translate 1:1 into German and trust, that the reciever is intelligent enough to use Google, if he does not understand something. If he wants more explanations he has to pay for it, since I'm paid by character count. If I would translate only the relevant, my pay would suffer.
But if I knew the end client, I could ask what he really is interested in and could filter the texts accordingly. But that would mean I should be paid by the hour.


Alex Jones
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:40
Japanese to English
+ ...
thanks... Jan 28, 2004

...for the advice. I'm using the 'draft and rewrite' method but I thought that was just me being slow.

I have another question; when the article quotes someone who originally made the quote in English, do you have to search for the original quote, or is it OK to back-translate if the quote is not easily located?


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