June 27, 2009

200th forum member

The French forum now counts over 200 members, with discussions ranging from simple homework help to details of French grammar to cultural issues. Thank you to everyone who participating in what are some very interesting and helpful discussions.

June 19, 2009

French dictionary update

Another small update to the French dictionary today to fix one or two minor typos and add a few more words and phrases. My thanks as usual to those who have written to me to mention typos that they have spotted and to make other suggestions. Your feedback is always welcome.

June 18, 2009

New translation submission tool

The home page of the French Linguistics translation service now contains a new tool to make it easier to get a quote and submit that document for translation. The tool appears in the top-right of the page under the heading Instant translation quote. Submitting the document is simple: select the "Browse" button next to the File field to select the document that you need translating. Then, indicate which language you wish to have the document translated into, and enter a contact e-mail, before hitting the quote button. An approximate price for translation will then be displayed on screen, and you will be able to decide whether to submit the document for final approval.

It is important to note that at this point you are not committing to anything. Your document will shortly be reviewed and you will be e-mailed with confirmation of the price and proposed delivery time. At this point, any queries about your document may also be raised. For translation to go ahead, you will then be required to reply to the e-mail with confirmation.

Note that the automated quoting tool is currently available for certain document types and target languages only. If you have several documents or if the document type and/or language required isn't supported, please submit your document manually.

Why are these steps necessary? Well, they're essential to getting you the best possible translation. It is impossible for a translator to give a reliable quote and delivery time without having seen the document first, and no reputable translator or translation agency should do so. (As mentioned in a previous post, be very wary of any company that does give a firm price or deadline commitment without having first seen the actual document to be translated: if they underquote on either price or delivery time, they may be forced to cut corners and compromise translation quality in order to meet the commitment.)

New topic: French marketing terms

Those using French for business may be interested in a page of French marketing terms added to the French vocabulary and phrases section of the web site.

Other sections that may be of interest:

June 15, 2009

New vocab topic: tax and finance in French

A new French vocabulary topic added to the French Linguistics site looks at French finance terms. At present, the terms specifically cover tax and investment. Suggestions for additional terms are also welcome.

June 12, 2009

Getting the best translation results

As part of running the French Linguistics site, I provide various translation services, notably translations into and out of French and Spanish, where necessary in collaboration with a network of other freelance translators in order to bring the best experts together on a given job. I thought it would be worth clarifying a couple of points here about how to make translation services work best for you, and to help you find the right service.

If you want to get the best translation results, the first thing to consider is making sure your text is well-written in the first place. Are there any parts that would be open to misinterpretation by another reader knowledgeable in the field?

In general, you should then always provide the doument to be translated in your initial contact. You'd never call your plumber and say "I've got this job for you to do and I want to know how much it'll cost, but I'm not going to tell you what it is that I want you to do". But it's amazing how many people contact translators expecting to get a quote on a "miscellaneous document". As a general rule of thumb, no reputable translator will agree to a price without first seeing the document that you need translated. Unless you've really made special arrnagements otherwise, then as a rule of thumb, if you are ever given a quote without having supplied the document, alarm bells should probably be ringing.

The same is true of deadlines. Translators can give a rough words-per-day estimate, but no reputable translator will commit to a given deadline without having seen the document. A thousand words of one document may require much more time than a thousand words of another.

The next thing that can help speed up the process is to be specific about which parts of the document need to be translated and in what format you require the translation. It may be obvious to you that you only need columns one and two of the three-column PDF you sent, but unless you explicitly state that, you may risk waiting for and getting billed for a translation you don't need. For similar reasons, if you send additional files "for reference" that don't need translating, be very specific about this. A reputable translator will always query in case of doubt, but it is good to be specific from the outset.

If you need to translate business documents, try and see the translation as an important part of the process, whose results will affect the impression that readers of the document have about your company. Properly budget for the time required to get a quality translation (ideally, at least a day or more per 2,000 words on average); don't just go for a cheap "rush job".

If quality is important to you, then don't engage in cowboy practices. Reputable translators should generally not engage in practices such as discounting repeated words (the translation may depend on context) or discounting names (names may also require translation, choice of spelling alternatives, and the choice of surrounding words may depend on the name-- in short, names are part of the translatin too!). If a translator or translation company agrees to such practices, it is likely that the quality of your translation will be compromised.

Finally, as mentioned in the section on book translation, you may need to adjust the layout of your document to accommodate the extra length (or diminished length, depending on direction) of the translation. As rough guide, English text translated into French typically has 20-30% more words compared to the original. (This increase is generally due to certain company grammatical structures that English has, but other languages such as French do not.)

For a good translation, you should expect to pay around 50-60 Euros per 1000 words at the very least, and more for specific circumstances such as an unusual language pair or for extra reviewing time. Sometimes translators can quote less than this if it's a document they know they can translate quickly and accurately, e.g. because it's very similar to one they've translated before. But in general, if you are ever given a quote for much less than this-- especially by an agency-- then that is probably a sign that cowboy practices are being employed, such as using a machine translation or not having the text translated or properly reviewed by a native speaker of the target language.

French Dictionary update

As usual, today's update to the French dictionary adds various new words and translations.

One interesting word that was missing, and is still missing from various of the large paper dictionaries, is étasunien, a neologism derived from États-Unis, and becoming increasingly common in journalistic writing. It came to my attention particularly this week as I was working on some translations for a UK newspaper. As rightly pointed out by my collaborator, although a slightly ugly word, it covers cases where a degree of "neutrality" is required: although the term américain is commonly used in French (as indeed the word American in English) to imply "from the US", there are various countries that consider themselves to be part of "America", but not part of the US. We were then faced with an interesting translation problem: where to draw the line between not wishing to express political or cultural bias, and avoiding a slightly awkward neologism where such a word was not present in the original text. When making a decision between, say, troupes américaines and troupes étasuniennes, there's some balance to strike between how well the text "reads" and politcal correctness. I hope in this case that we struck the right balance.

June 4, 2009

French Dictionary update

The latest update to the French-English dictionary adds various new words and terms, plus corrections to various entries.

Various improvements have also been made based on comments left by users on individual entries. I'd like to thank all those who have left comments.