As the world's foremost language English has some special characteristics. It is spoken as a first, second and foreign language in entirely different countries and contains therefore an enormous vocabulary. English spoken in Wales is distinct to the English spoken in California or Kenya. The differences are not only found in pronunciation but also in the way words are written. Phrases from all walks of life, be it everyday items ("restroom" vs. "cloakroom") or official titles ("minister" vs. "secretary") can vary greatly causing the danger of inaccurate translations.
Why is this important?
Usually, I translate into British English. The reason for this is mainly the fact that I studied English literature and culture, cultivating the British accent and having a particularly strong interest in this variety of English. Therefore, I will write by default "licence" or "grammar school" rather than "license" or "high school", unless you request I do differently. Should your translation not be for the use in the United Kingdom or Ireland, please inform me of the destination country. For instance, should you require a translation for the US or Canada, I will choose phrases commonly used in those countries. The same applies to any other English-speaking countries where annotations can be made for better understanding.
The choice of a particular variety of English can play an important role in a number of situations:
- Selling a product: Companies selling spare tyres should decide whether they can be stored in a "booth" or a "trunk" depending on where they want to market their product.
- Having your qualifications recognised: People who have completed legal studies in Germany can be called in English a "lawyer", "solicitor", "attorney" or "barrister" depending on their specialisation and the country they want to apply in.
- Applying for a visa: The German "Führungszeugnis" can be translated in different ways. For instance, for Canadian authorities the translation "Certificate of Good Standing" would be the most precise and understandable one.
- Applying for a job: The standard form of address in German applications "Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren" is best translated into British English with the official "Dear Sir or Madam" rather than "To whom it may concern".
- Marrying abroad: "Ehefähigkeitszeugnis" is the German certificate of no impediment to marriage. In Canada they use the term "marriage license" for this kind of document. A good translator should mention this term at least in a footnote.
Some texts are targeted at an international audience. This is for instance the case when you provide a service in a city where many foreigners reside, however you don’t want to have your website or product description translated into 20 different languages, but rather into English as the world’s lingua franca. The goal is to write English texts in a way that they can be easily understood by non-native speakers.
If you need such texts in Simple English, then I can pay attention to the following points while translating them:
- Americanised endings: In International English, it is common to write "realize" rather than "realise".
- Simple vocabulary: Instead of writing "ramifications" or "alterations" it is advisable to use everywhere the easier word "changes".
- Avoiding regionalisms: Alcohol-free beverages should not be called "soda" but "soft drink".
- No phrasal verbs: It is better to write "put in circulation" than "put about".
Quality comes first!
Regardless of whether you need a translation of civil register documents, a job application, marketing texts or technical documentation - you need a translation that works! A good translation does not only perfectly replicate the original text but also reads well, is appealing to the target group, contains terms typical for the industry and follows the conventions of the culture it is intended for. You will have no benefit from a literal, word-to-word translation that is done en passant within 10 minutes. Utilise the services of a full-time professional like myself who will work intensively on your texts, devote a huge amount of time and effort and think outside the box if necessary! You can expect from me creative texts, alternate translation propositions and, where it seems sensible, explanations in footnotes allowing you to better understand what you get for your money and what translation work has gone into your purchase.