What One Should Consider

Professional Profile
When one translates to a different language than one's first language, the translation can be technically correct, but the sentences do not flow as evenly and elegantly as they should; and the vocabulary and grammar are not like an native would have written. Simply stated, it doesn't sound right. Such documents are not good enough for sales, but can be adequate for internal use. If one wishes to be presented as an international profile, it would be a good investment to have translations done by one who has the target language as their first language.

Written is not the same as oral
Speaking is not the same as writing. To speak fluently and correctly is no guarantee for an sleek and elegant written performance. A Norwegian who regularly communicates in English and spends a lot of time in the countries where one speaks these languages, will still be revealed as "foreign" when they communicate in writing.

English has a larger variety of words compared to Norwegian. For example, for the Norwegian "å velge", which means "to choose," one must find the correct English translation. Other English words that could be used in this case are "pick,'' "decide," or "elect." The same is true for the word "stor" which can be translated as "big," "large," "huge,", "hefty," great," "vast," etc. One must have a good knowledge of both languages to be able to choose the correct word for the different contexts.

Many customers have unrealistic expectations to what a translater does. The translater will usually translate sentence for sentence. To rework the text, see the whole document as a whole and, to a certain degree, compose a completely new and better text will take longer time and therefore cost considerably more.

Assignment Time
Make sure to give the translator enough time. Most translators work freelance, and work both nights and weekends; but one can not expect a translator to drop other assignments and do the job immediately. They will greatly appreciate early notice about when the assignment will arrive, so that they can plan their time. Also agree on what will happen when delays arise. If a translator has refused other assignments, then it is fair for the translator to receive compensation if she must wait.

Avoid Culture-Specific Phrases

  • To facilitate the work of the translator, avoid culture-specific phrases.
  • Referanses to national sport is often not understood. The same is true for literary and cultural expressions.
  • Be careful with references to the different body parts. These references are perceived very differently in the different cultures.
  • Be also very careful with the use of humor, as that can often backfire.

Avoid metaphors and puns that are specific for the country or language.

Many times, there are no similar expressions in the other language; and, therefore, not possible to translate. It forces the translator to make lengthy explanations or paraphrases; which, in turn, will mean big differences in space usage.

Keep local color if desired, but check with the translator about what is possible and reasonable. Give her free rein, but be aware that it may well double the price. She is paid to be a translator, not to be a writer.

Small Differences Become Large
Feel free to let the translator check the final proofs from the printer. It is well known that changes at the last minute, headings, abbreviations, division or change of words can sabotage a perfect text. Be careful not to contract changes over the phone, as it often creates confusion.

Paper Sizes
Typografical conventions are different in many countries. Use of apostrophe, quotes, numbers and commas vary. The paper sizes are different. Norway uses A4 while the USA uses Legal or Letter. These are a little different; and, therefore, there is not the same amount of room for text per page. A regular problem is that one doesn't have enough room in text boxes and figures. If everything is tightly filled, one must often resort to abbreviations. That doesn't make the text any clearer.

The Notation of Date and Time
If the date is written as 02-04-08 (02/04/08), then that could mean 2nd of April, 2008, or February 4th, 2008, or April 8th, 2002. Historically, this could also mean April 2, 1908. In the USA, the date is written month-day-year, and in Norway, day-month-year; so there are possibilities for misunderstandings if one isn't aware.

The most unique is to use the ISO/ANSI standard yyyy-mm-dd, ie 2008-04-02, April 2, 2008 (this is also adopted by the UN).

The same problem applies to time: eight o’clock can mean both AM og PM (morning and evening), so it is preferable to use 08:00 and 20:00 in the translation. In the USA, the 24-hour clock is used by the military, but usually not by others. The translator can add AM or PM to the text for other audiences.

Be aware that the week number, which is used a lot in Scandinavia, is very unusual in the English-speaking world.

The Notation for Numbers:  10,000.00 eller 10.000,00?
In many cases it has become normal to use 10 000.00; in other words, the use of a space to separate the thousands and a decimal point in front of the decimals. Norway uses a decimal point where the USA uses a comma, and they use a comma where the USA uses a decimal point. In Norway, they also use the word, "billion," for what is called a "trillion" in the USA (1 000 000 000 000). Well worth noting when reading the national budget or turnover in larger firms.

Machine Translation – Software for Translation
If one will translate a text for personal use, machine translation, for example http://translate.google.com/, can be an aid. It is both quick and cheap, but many times the results are totally wrong.

One should avoid using machine translation for anything that is to be presented for customers or business contacts. It is not

Man bør unngå å bruke maskinoversetting for noe som skal presenteres utad for kunder eller forretningsforbindelser. They are not suitable and you will be perceived as inarticulate or a little silly.

Careful editing of a machine translated text is of course a possibility, but it rarely saves costs in the long run. Many linguists believe that the machine translated text is so bad that it's faster to do the translation again.

Think International from the Start
The translator would like to know how local telephone numbers and addresses are to be treated. Should they be replaced with addresses in the destination country, or shall Norwegian country codes be added in addition to the word "Norway"? What about personal names and place names that are used as examples in the text? Will Knut Hansen be replaced by John Smith and Kongsberg with San Francisco? Addresses that point to the web pages: are the addresses the same for the English, Norwegian and German texts?