The source file is the most important document in the translation process. The source file, which is the file that is to be translated into another language, highly affects the outcome of the target text, or the translated text. In this blog post, I have decided to describe the characteristics that make a good source file.

In order to determine what makes a source file good, I decided to get the perspective of the experts in evaluating a source file, the translators. I interviewed one of our expert translators, Tina Kover. Tina Kover holds a BA from the University of Denver, studied at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland), and holds an MA from the University of Durham (United Kingdom).  She has worked as a freelance French-to-English translator for almost fifteen years. She has translated eight published books to date, for publishers including Random House, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Ballantine Books, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and Carroll & Graf.

One of the fist questions that I asked her was, “What are some tips you can give writers of the source file to make sure that their translation is done smoothly?” She answered with a very simple message, “Clearly written source language leads to clearly written target language.” So, simply put, read your article from the perspective of your target audience (the people who will be reading the document) and determine if it’s understandable or if there is a different way to phrase the words that will be clearer.

The second question that I asked her was what she looks for in a source file before beginning to translate. Formatting, numbers, and images are what she looks at first; the layout part of the text to make sure that it won’t slow the translation process. In order to help your translator, keep the formatting of the document as simple as possible.  If it is a complex document, such as graphs or charts, it may be best to extract the text from that file and send the source file as a Word document.

Another questions that I asked Tina was the importance of a glossary and in what areas are they most useful. Tina responded saying that a glossary is most useful when translating technical areas, such as a scientific or engineering document because “words have meanings that aren’t generally associated with them.” This helps the translator fully understand the meaning of the term and, therefore, the translator can provide a more accurate translation.  The glossary can be a simple as defining the terms in your source text, or can be as complex as providing the translation of that term for the translator.

So when you are sending in your next document to be translated, think about how you can make the process easier for the translator.  Write a clear and concise document that has simple formatting. And, if possible, provide a glossary for those tricky terms. If you don’t have a glossary, contact Vocalink and we can create one for you!

I would like to thank Tina Kover for taking the time to answer my questions! I really appreciate it!