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Know your audience (2): clear writing…

Know your audience (2): clear writing…

… and knowing your target language for clear translations

Is translation an art, or a science? Twenty-some years after finishing my translation studies, I’m still not sure. I might think it’s maybe none, or maybe both, depending mainly on how my brain decides to work that day (cunning linguist operated by a mathematically thinking brain at your service).

The truth is clear writing doesn’t always translate clearly. The many occurrences of ‘please’ and the repeated grammatical subjects in an English text or the French infinitives might, if used in Romanian, turn a simple sentence into a dragon with seven heads, spitting fire from all its mouths simultaneously. That is, if us, translators, forget how clear writing sounds in our native languages.

So, yes, I might need to use way more prepositions than the source and take care of the gender/number/declension agreements. I will, however, remember that repeated Romanian subjects can be replaced with the appropriate pronouns or be omitted altogether without compromising the clarity of the target. Also, I will keep in mind that we use the imperative without any English ‘please’ and instead of a French infinitive.

What might be the secret to a clear translation? Do not forget your audience and remember that your translation should sound native in your language. When in doubt, read it out loud. Make sure your grandma only needs to ask you about very specialised terminology to understand.

Translator. Foodie. Science nerd and language expert with a passion for medical, technical and gourmet translations.

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