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should we translate indexes of books?
Thread poster: vanilla_sky

Local time: 17:07
English to Arabic
+ ...
Nov 15, 2006

Dear Collegues,

this is my first time to post a topic in Proz and i really need your help. my question is pretty simple. in translating books should a transaltor translate the books' index which lies in the last pages od the book. this index includes words that have occured from anothe culture or words that carry meaning in the context which are far away from their dictionary meaning. beside each word the number of the page in which the term have occured is mentioned.

i think if we translated such index, we could dispense with many terms that the target reader is already familiar with and which could be part of culture. Moreover, the alphabatical order would have to be changed.

what to do you say about this collegues ? i'm waiting for your feedback to meet my deadline.



Cristina Popescu (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:07
English to Romanian
+ ...
Usually, yes Nov 15, 2006

I recommend that you talk to your client and ask them about this. I've translated some books for publishing houses and I've always had to translate the index too. However, the page numbers were not my responsibility (for obvious reasons), nor was the alphabetical order. The translation of the index does not involve the mere translation of the listed terms, but also a confrontation with the body of the book to make sure you're consistent.
I hope this helps.


Henrik Pipoyan  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:07
Member (2004)
English to Armenian
Normally you should Nov 15, 2006

Depends on your PO, but usually you should. You can translate just the terms and avoid any further explanations, because readers will find all these explanations if they follow the page number (If this is a book, than probably the client will typeset the text in another program and correct the pages, so you may indicate or avoid page numbers in the index). Regarding alphabetic order, normally you should sort it according to the target alphabet, but you’d better let your client know about this.


Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:07
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Translation of index Nov 15, 2006

Everything depends on what you agreed upon with the client.

For the reader it is a great help to have an index - so most publishers will have the index translated. However, this is a very time-consuming part of the translation, especially when you have only the hardcopy.

Once I translated a 900-page physics textbook - and for a textbook the index is really necessary. I made a photocopy of the whole book, took the 20-page index, and highlighted the exact occurrences of each term in the main text.
When doing the translation, I added the necessary index items, and when the whole translation was done, I generated the index, and double- or rather triple-checked it to ensure consistent terminology. (Note that there are many programs that do the alphabetical order automatically, and get the page numbers right. If you have to do it by hand then it can be done only when the main text is perfectly finished (including copy-.editing, inclusion of diagrams... everything). And it must be a very tedious procedure then.

All in all, producing the equivalent of the 20-page index took me three or four full weeks -- so you should negotiate an extra price for that.

this index includes words that have occured from anothe culture or words that carry meaning in the context which are far away from their dictionary meaning.

Without translating the book it is impossible to produce a really good index. You can make a first draft, e.g., if you want to specify what is covered by the book (although the table of contents should give a good hint) - but you will have to change it often during translation.



Thomas Pfann  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:07
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
Sure Nov 15, 2006

Just think about what the purpose of the index is: it's for the reader to quickly find what they are looking for. So an index in a foreign language wouldn't be much use at all - it needs to be in the same language as the rest of the book.

By the way: It's also important to check that the page numbers are still correct. Sometimes the translation might be shorter or longer than the original and while one concept is discussed on page 57 of the source, it might actually have moved to page 59 in the translated book.

Hope this helps,


Claudia Krysztofiak  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:07
English to German
+ ...
Not like a text Nov 15, 2006

Normally, it does not make sense to simply translate an index of a book as is. Of course, in the end it depends on what you agreed upon with your client.

You can ask them if they really want a translation of the index and tell them what you think. You may find that they just hadn't thought about it.

In a book I translated the index was compiled from index entries all over the book. It makes perfect sense to translate such entries within the given context, so the index can be built from them later on.

Moreover, simply to translate the final index may cause problems since you translate the words without their context and this can lead to mistranslations. And you have to be sure that the words that appear in the index are the same ones you used in the text.

To use the same page numbers is complete nonsense.

You may offer to build a new index for your client. But this is not a question of translation but a special service of its own and should be charged accordingly.

For future projects you may consider this: If you translate a book with an index it is often a good idea to translate it first (looking up the pages given in the index to find the context). In a technical text this gives you a good basis of technical terms and can improve the consistency of the text.


Local time: 17:07
English to Arabic
+ ...
thanks Nov 15, 2006

thanks a loticon_smile.gif your posts really helped me in forming an idea about translating indexes.
But i still don't know when is it better to translate it ? is it recommended to translate it before translating the whole book , after the whole translation, or it is enough to have an overview of the book from the translation of two chapters ?


Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:07
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
In Word you mark the indexed words and wordgroups Nov 15, 2006

in the sourcetext. In technical texts this is many times already done. If your source text is in Word-format, you could search the text for each index entry and mark it (color, style etc.) using search and replace. Then you can prepare the text for indexing and translate normally. The new index can be created any time within Word.

In the question of exotic language the customer could have difficulties with the correct order.



Local time: 17:07
English to Arabic
+ ...
it is a book Nov 15, 2006

thank but actually it is a book , not a word document. so it is not that easy . still do i have to translate the index first ? even if the text is not technical ?


Cecilia Falk  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:07
English to Swedish
Another approach Nov 15, 2006

This is the approach I used when translating a book about Japan a couple of years ago (actually 10 years, I just realised!):

I translated the whole book first (no electronic source text). When I came to the index I realised that it was a very important part of the book, and I also realised that there was a lot of work involved in producing an accurate index. Neither I, nor the publishing house had thought of this to start out, so I negotiated a fixed amount for doing the index.

I then proceeded to translate the terms in the index, and as I had the translation fresh in mind, and knew what terms I had used, that was no problem. I also deleted terms that it did not make sense to translate, and added others as I saw fit (with the reader in mind).

I then used the automatic index function in Word. That is, you have a list of word for the index, and Word inserts the index markers at the correct pages, and generates an index with the correct page numbers.
This index of course has to be regenerated after DTP. If the book should be imported to some other program (like InDesign) you might have to discuss this with the publishing house.

Best regards,

[Edited at 2006-11-15 14:01]

[Edited at 2006-11-15 14:04]


Henrik Pipoyan  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:07
Member (2004)
English to Armenian
Any method has its advantages Nov 15, 2006

If the entries in the index are more or less clear to you, you can find single matches for them and you won’t need to change them too much in the course of translation, you might want to translate the index first. Like Claudia said, it will serve you as a very good glossary and will help you keep consistency throughout the text. This will also help you recognize the occurrences of the entries when translating the text and mark them accordingly, so that in the end you can find them easily to indicate the pages, especially that you say it's not a Word document, and you may have difficulty finding the correct places after translation. But if most of the index entries are ambiguous to you, and you may need to change them in the course of translation, I think it’s better to start translating the text first. You could also do parallel translation of the text and index, but too much depends on the type of text you are translating.


Alfredo Tutino  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:07
English to Italian
+ ...
preparing an index is a different job Nov 15, 2006

An index is a learning and research job; in my opinion, in an ideal word preparing an index for an academic (or, at any rate, a specialist's) translated book is a job for someone with academic (or at least "proper") qualification in the field .

The target language index should be prepared ex novo, using the source language index mostly as a guide or first draft, and according to the academic (or editorial) standards of the field in the target language (and the needs of the intended readership) - that can be subtly (and no-so subtly) different for different cultures, academic traditions and editorial conventions.

In the real world, sometimes publishers do not realize any of the above or do not care, some books are less serious than that but still sport an index, and so forth...; and in many case a "not-quite-up-to-the best-standards" index can be much better, for the reader, than no index at all.

In my opinion, you should consult the publisher; most of them should have guidelines in place - or at least a settled policy on the matter. At any rate this is a serious, time-consuming and rather specific job, and a specific rate should be negotiated for it.

On the other hand, it can be useful to prepare a rough or first draft translation of the index as a tool for the rest of the translation job (for instance, for getting terminology right, preparing your own glossary, identifying matter you have to research...); and even if you must work from paper, the "mark text" function of your word processor can still be useful - for instance to highlight the words that you *think* have to be included in the index while you type.

[Edited at 2006-11-15 14:34]

[Edited at 2006-11-15 14:36]


Hipyan Nopri  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:07
Member (2005)
English to Indonesian
+ ...
Of course Nov 15, 2006

You should translate the index. It is an integral part and is greatly important to the reader.
Translating first, and then indexing. It will be easier to index after translating the book first. You just do what Heinrich suggested.
Happy translating.


Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:07
Spanish to English
+ ...
I would say no... Nov 15, 2006

I'm really surprised by this discussion. Indexing of a book is a highly technical craft. As an editor, I never do it; the publisher hires a professional.

Something that I learned only recently is that an index is not just a list of words found in the book. It can also include concepts, and the corresponding page numbers may not contain the words that express the concept. There are different styles of indexing, and some are more costly to produce, and it is quite possible that the press might prefer a simpler...or a more complex...index than the one found in the original. There are other considerations, but since I'm not an indexer, I'm not familiar enough with them to list them here (but I do know they exist).

Once a professional indexer has the translated manuscript in hand, he or she can index it just as they would normally do with a manuscript that was written originally in the target language. On the other hand, the poor person who gets the list with the terms is going to have to do exactly as much work (if not more) as he or she would have had to do if they'd started from scratch, because each instance of the words in the list will have to be tracked down by hand in the page proofs. As far as I know, with a hard-copy book, you cannot use an electronic tool to generate the index, because it has to be based on the page proofs, not on an electronic file.

So, in short, be SURE TO CHECK WITH THE PRESS before translating the index ...


Local time: 17:07
English to Arabic
+ ...
how to use Word ? Nov 16, 2006

thanks a lot dear colleagues.

actually, i'm going to translate the index first to give me the terminology. but how am i going to use Word to save the index entries whenever i'm encountered with terms already occured in the index. i know it's a technical question but i'm sure you would help me in it.


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