Translations during COVID-19

The past few weeks have been very busy with usual translation and proofreading jobs plus new translations into Spanish related to COVID-19.

New projects around COVID-19 involved translating company guidelines on how to transition to working from home, newsletters praising some staff for their courage in continuing to fulfil their customer-facing and production roles, and questionnaires to check how staff were coping with working and networking from their homes.

It is very fulfilling for me to be able to enable Spanish-speakers to continue to contribute to society and to earn a living.

I have been working as a freelance translation since 1993 and most of the time I have worked from my home office. I understand the discipline this kind of work requires and the challenges that may present, so I am happy to assist those companies that care for their Spanish-speaking employees around the world and help them so that they can have as smooth a transition to homeworking as possible.

Online machine translation and confidentiality

What is machine translation?

A few years ago not many people had heard about such a technology. Nowadays, most people have heard of Google Translate, which is one of many free online multilingual machine translation facilities which allow you to translate webpages or text. What they may not be aware of, is that this may jeopardise confidentiality.

Your Content

In the section on Your Content in Our Services of Google terms, it reads “When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing you have added to Google Maps).”

Tempting as this online machine translation technology may be, it is always a good idea to consider how confidential the material is before using it.

This includes the practise of reverse translation which some clients may use, which implies running the translated text they receive in a foreign language so that it is translated back into English to check the accuracy of its style, content, etc.

I have recently heard of a person who contracted a freelance translator to translate some important documents for a Court case, and then made that fatal error of using Google Translate to run the translated documents to check the translation met his needs. By so doing, he risks the counterparty in the case finding the information online and having additional time to prepare their counterclaims.

In other cases, the use of machine translation may give rise to a breach of confidentiality and prosecution.

That is why I don’t use machine translation and if you need additional peace of mind, I will recommend contracting a second linguist to revise or proofread the translated text.

Do you need a Mercedes or a Mini?

When I started working full-time as a freelance translator into Spanish all those years ago, a colleague amused me by stating she never knew whether their clients were after a Mercedes or a Mini, so let’s clarify this.

When you request a translation, you may have different uses in mind:

  • You may only need to understand the gist of the message, for instance when you receive a message in a foreign language you can’t speak. A rough translation of the main ideas in the text may be enough. In this case, I would think about a translation for information purposes (what we might call “a Mini”). Such a translation will not be published anywhere and since it takes less work and time, will cost you less.
  • You may need a standard translation, that is to say, all the original text will be translated, the resulting translation will be grammatically correct and the content of the translation will be understood fully without having to refer back to the source text. Usually only one linguist will be responsible for the full translation process, so the translator will translate and proofread their own work.
  • You may need the highest quality translation, which is not only complete, correct, and understandable but also reads so well that it seems to be a text originally written in the target language, not a translation (that is to say, “a Mercedes”). Marketing materials would normally fall into this category. In this case, more than one translator will work on the same translation project. Usually one translator will be in charge of the translation and another one will proofread the translation. In some cases, a third translator will be involved to revise the proofread version or resolve any differences that the first two translators haven’t been able to agree on. Since this kind of translation involves a team of translators, it comes at the highest cost. I am happy to undertake the whole project relating to Spanish translations (that is to say, choosing and working with other colleagues, so that I am your only contact) and I am also happy to work only as the initial translator or only as the proofreader, if you want to source the other linguists involved yourself.

Clarity about what you need and expect in this regard may save you time and money. It will also help you get what you want.

A glimpse into the translation world

I am always thrilled at initial discussions between clients and linguists. It is my task to assist prospective clients until we end up with a clear brief for both parties.

Something as simple as getting some personal documents translated, say a birth certificate, needs special consideration. The Consulate may have asked for a certified translation, a sworn translation, or a Notarised translation.

Macro attention and micro attention

When I am working on a text, be it a translation assignment or a text I am revising, two different skills are paramount: broad comprehension (“macro-attention”) and the ability to focus sharply (“micro-attention”). In other words, on the one hand I need to make sure that terminology is used consistently and that the overall message is complete and coherent, and on the other hand, that the new text conveys exactly what it was meant to convey and that it is fit for its intended receiver.

I usually schedule a few minutes break during the working day in order to keep my mind awake and fresh, so that I am sure I don’t lose the overall picture while I am still paying attention to detail. My clients appreciate that.

Self-certified translations

As a member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI), I can provide self-certified translations, which are increasingly being accepted by government bodies, such as the Argentine Embassy in London. I have recently translated and self-certified some personal documents for a Visa applicant at that Embassy.