The importance of style in translation

Have you included details of “style” or “tone of voice” in your localisation brief? We’ve discussed before how when it comes to translating text there’s a lot more to it than literal translations of words on a page. As well as ensuring accurate translations it’s also very important to give consideration to style and tone of voice.

Interestingly, this may not be exactly the same as in the original content. In some situations it may be more appropriate to use a slightly different style; what works in one country may not work as well in another. Therefore it’s essential in any localisation and translation project to prioritise “style” on the localisation brief.

As you can imagine, when we’re working with clients on multilingual projects the localisation brief can run to many pages! Guidelines will include preferred uses of certain words, but will also address the tone of the piece: whether it’s formal and professional, informal yet authoritative, casual and friendly, upbeat and enthusiastic, supportive and caring etc.

But it’s not just a question of deciding on whether to use formal or informal pronouns, it’s also about making a decision about how closely to translate the style and tone used in your original copy.

What style suits your local market?

If you’ve been operating in overseas markets for some time you’ll probably already have a clear idea of how to localise your translation projects for particular regions. But if you’re just starting out in a new territory it’s worthwhile getting some local insight before embarking on a translation project.

Comtec’s team of linguists and localisation experts are also able to assess existing material and its appropriateness for a given country or region.  The brief is always to align translations with the company values or brand proposition, but to give feedback that will make communications more effective in a given region.

Often it’s useful to find other sector-specific material to use as reference; this might be your own previously translated copy, or examples of effective marketing material from other sources.

Specialist terminology

Information regarding terminology should also be included in your style guide. There may be sector or company specific terminology to be used in the translations. However there may also be instances where particular terminology needs to be avoided. For example, internal communications are likely to reflect the terminology used within your business, and specifically in that region – whereas marketing material might use more everyday language.

We often create two or more translation memories for clients who have distinctively different styles for particular channels. A manufacturer might favour an informal style using specialist terminology for the retailers who stock their products, whereas their translation materials for direct sales (i.e. the customer) could be jargon-free but more formal.

As you can see, to get a good translation of any material it’s important to put in some thought and preparation. The more detail you can give your translator, the better.

If you would like some further advice on developing a style guide for your translation projects, please get in touch on info@comtectranslations.com or call us on + 44 (0) 1926 335 681. We’re here ready and waiting to help.

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