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The aesthetics of translation
Thread poster: Raf Uzar

Raf Uzar
Poland
Local time: 05:30
Polish to English
Sep 7, 2010

I've always considered this question of secondary importance but the longer I translate, the more time and energy I spend on making my text look good - I pick a nice font and page layout which suits the genre and spend ages playing with the justification, spacing and pagination.
In fact, I tend to spend TOO much time on this.icon_wink.gif

Should we bother? I mean, is our job as a translator to worry about the aesthetics of the text we're working on? Surely, our primary task is to focus on the message...

Interestingly, according to a poll (http://polldaddy.com/poll/3713491/?view=results) most translators DO believe it to be important - a ratio of about 65-35.
Is this really a surprise? It was for me...

Raf


 

patyjs  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 22:30
Spanish to English
+ ...
I don't worry too much. Sep 7, 2010

With a Word doc I follow exactly the format of the original (font, spacing, indents etc.) unless I'm told otherwise or the original is difficult to follow given its formatting.

When I have a pdf or powerpoint to do, I try to match the original as much as possible. I will draw the line at purchasing a font I don't have, but I do tend to spend a lot of time matching colors, etc, even when the client specifies it's not necessary. I'll reproduce graphs and other graphics as far as I can and always try to deliver a product which exceeds expectations, so when time is available I'll go the extra mile.

Somethimes, I wonder whether the client even notices, though.icon_wink.gif

[Edited at 2010-09-07 13:54 GMT]


 

Raf Uzar
Poland
Local time: 05:30
Polish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Why worry? Sep 7, 2010

Patyjs,

I always do the same unless I see that there are real big problems. For example, I recently translated a text which interchangeably used Tahoma and Arial not because that was what the author wanted but because the text had been cut and pasted from other documents. Agh!

I like the fact that you say you'd go that 'extra mile' if need be. Likewise - most translators DO care for their work and the text they're working on.

How about the poll: http://polldaddy.com/poll/3713491/?view=results
Do you think it's a fair reflection of translators? Is it a fair reflection of what YOU think?


 

David Wright  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 05:30
German to English
+ ...
No I don't Sep 7, 2010

I assume my client will deal with formatting; I suspect that any special formatting I do will be a waste of time anyway.

 

Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 05:30
Italian to English
Ask the client Sep 7, 2010

It's up to the client to specify the format when asking for a quote, which will be adjusted accordingly.

Sometimes, though, I get messy RTFs with improbable line breaks, or documents with a ".doc" extension that aren't really Word files. These have usually been exported from a DTP program and would require a fair bit of pre-editing. That's when I pick up the phone and speak to the client, typically a publisher or advertising agency, who might be unaware that CAT tools these days (I use Trados Studio 2009) can deal with a wide range of file types.

Incidentally, this is a good way of earning brownie points, particularly with the client's DTP staff, who have less trouble importing the translated text if it's already in their DTP program's format.


 

FarkasAndras
Local time: 05:30
English to Hungarian
+ ...
I've never formatted anything... Sep 7, 2010

... and I don't plan to. I can't imagine a situation in which I'd want to.
If the source file is a .doc, .ppt, .xls etc., then it's formatted already, and I conserve all formatting. IMO any change beyond the correction of obvious mistakes in the source file would be highly unprofessional.
If the source file is in some tagged format, it's even more obvious: don't mess with anything.
If the source file is a PDF or some scan/printout, I could try and recreate the formatting in Word... but I usually don't really do that. Just highlight chapter titles with larger/bold font and call it a day. I can't guess what the client's exact preference is anyway.


 

Inga Petkelyte  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 04:30
Lithuanian to Portuguese
+ ...
And what about Sep 7, 2010

And what about the cases where the original formatting is highly diversified - e.g., in medical certificates, just 1 page documents, I find 5 to 7 letter sizes, and some of those regular, some bold, some in italic, parts underlined - well, you imagine how it looks like, just small diversified formatting parts distributed accros the document ?
Often this formatting takes as much time as the translation itself.

What do you do about it ?


 

Raf Uzar
Poland
Local time: 05:30
Polish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Just say 'no'? Sep 8, 2010

David,

I've had situations where I've left the formatting to the client and have been castigated for not making an effort with the way the text looks.

Greg,

I agree with you here. It's up to the client to specify the format which doesn't mean we should abandon all formatting. I also like your point about scoring brownie points with the DTP staff. SO true!icon_smile.gif


 

Raf Uzar
Poland
Local time: 05:30
Polish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Format or die! Sep 8, 2010

FarkasAndras,
I originally assumed that most translators think the way you do but the poll http://polldaddy.com/poll/3713491/?view=results tells us this is not the case. Most translators seem to want to spend time formatting a text and making it look good. Do you think this is necessary? Have you found it unnecessary in your experience?

Inga Petkelyte,
I've had identical texts to deal with. They've been badly written, poorly formatted and not proof-read. When I've questioned the client about the need to clean, format and 'tidy up' the text they've been over the moon as many medical texts translated from Polish are never published but often translated into English and only then published so the original format/text is actually unimportant.


 

Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 10:30
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Surcharge fee Sep 8, 2010

To format translated documents is very much time-consuming. I remind of DTP jobs. I will quote for such translation with surcharge, a bit higher rate.

Soonthon Lupkitaro


 

Raf Uzar
Poland
Local time: 05:30
Polish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Fee? Sep 8, 2010

Soonthon LUPKITARO,

I find that formatting comes with the territory. I've always expected my work to not only be good but also 'look' good so there's never really any question of me charging more. Besides, I've not come across clients willing to pay more for formatting.


 

Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 10:30
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
MS PowerPoint jobs Sep 9, 2010

Raf Uzar wrote:

I find that formatting comes with the territory. I've always expected my work to not only be good but also 'look' good so there's never really any question of me charging more. Besides, I've not come across clients willing to pay more for formatting.


MS PowerPoint jobs usually contain splendid graphics for good presentation. It is very much time-consuming for format settings than translating, in particular between horizontal and vertical text orientation [e.g. for Asian languages]. Certain jobs consume extremely large amount of PC RAM memory and file saving time. My CAT based translation frequently gives error due to complicated text boxes. Proz.com profile pages also provide a fee surcharge function for translating + format rearranging if the service provider prefers.

Soonthon Lupkitaro


 

Raf Uzar
Poland
Local time: 05:30
Polish to English
TOPIC STARTER
To format or not? Sep 9, 2010

Soonthon LUPKITARO,

I agree that it could be a little more troublesome having to format text orientation for some languages and texts. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

That aside, I still believe translators should care more for the look of their text in our increasingly visual world. I've just had another look at the poll (http://polldaddy.com/poll/3713491/?view=results) and see that the majority (just over) 65% believes that we should focus on the way the text looks.

In your experience do you usual leave the formatting to the client or do you format and always charge extra?


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 05:30
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Ask the client is the only safe rule Sep 9, 2010

I have sometimes been asked to tidy up PowerPoint slides, which can be very demanding and time-consuming when the target typically takes up more space than the source - which may mean a LOT more space if every line in a bullet-point setup runs over... Or it may be sufficient just to reduce the pitch of the text slightly. I prefer not to touch formatting, and if it takes time, I charge for it.

At other times the file is going to be sent for DTP, and I am asked not to touch the formatting whatever I do.

It depends how far along the overall process the translation is done. At the dawn of time I worked for a printer of the old-fashioned kind, with real typographers and lead type! Jimmy in the print shop definitely tried to set each page as a little work of art that reflected and harmonised with the message... I was just the proofreader then, not translating.

Whe I first started translating, my computer used to crash from lack of memory, and I was told to send the file to the DTP-artist as we called her, who could tweak it, and then she knew how to manage it when she had to set up the final version. But if translators meddled, she often had to sit up all night wondering what we had done. The problem was that text ran over the allotted space between pictures and diagrams... Again, reducing the pitch helped.

I got really good at saving every 30 seconds and deleting temporary files... But the results were worth it.

The setup does make a difference, and many clients do notice. Still, it is important to know who is responsible and what is needed. Then you can hand on the translation formatted or as plain text accordingly.



[Edited at 2010-09-09 14:28 GMT]


 

Raf Uzar
Poland
Local time: 05:31
Polish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Uber-translator Sep 9, 2010

Christine,

I think you've hit the nail on the head with this.icon_smile.gif
It really does depend where you are in the whole editorial process.
Thanks for bringing our attention to this.

Most of my work is done towards the beginning of the process so formatting is not really an issue, however, certain jobs require me to keep to the original .pdf document so sometimes I'm a slave to the structure and even have to shorten (or lengthen) certain sentences in order for them to fit the page or structure of the original.

Some may argue that this isn't translation and I agree - in these situations you become an amalgam: a translator-DTP operator-editor-proofer of sorts, an uber-translator.


 
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