Correcting Software Translations

©Judy Vorfeld

Some time after I started a new profit center, polishing foreign software translations, I began encouraging others in my industry to follow my lead. If you love working with words, here's part of what you need to begin a similar venture: good grammar and communication skills, focus, flexibility, and wisdom.

Before you consider this type of venture, make sure that you have no moral or ethical conflicts with the site content. This is true domestically and internatoinally. The same thing is true if you are asked to type, for example, a manuscript. As professionals, we must screen our potential clients and their product. In order to give enthusiastic support to any project, we need to believe in what we are doing.

When I learned that a fellow professional needed help with a number of pages, I went to his site and studied it carefully. Some of the software-translated text was understandable, but most was not. After studying the site, it was clear that I could make most of the needed changes (including punctuation and formatting). Since it was a site with scientific terminology, I knew I would spend extra time consulting with the non-English-speaking owner, who would translate electronically each of my messages, then write and electronically translate his responses. He is French, and his site is in four languages.

Here is his first (electronically translated) message to me, in which he explains how he works with his German text editor:

". . . for translations in German, I send the page web joined to an email. The translator opens the page in edition and translates the text directly. It is can be possible to make similar. Here is a joined page, if you can open him in edition, it is possible to correct the grammar directly. It is as possible to correct some details of the presentation. After, it is sufficient to send back the corrected page web. To receipt I finish details. It is a simple and fast formula. What thinks you of it?"

I opened the page and decided to plunge in. Doing this type of work allows me to focus on what the originator is trying to say and keep it consistent with everything else he's written.

How will you be paid? If the job appears to be substantial, you may choose to ask for a large deposit. Some potential clients will ask you to quote based on the job, while others will accept an hourly rate. Make sure to factor in the time spent communicating the corrections to the owner, if that is necessary. I encourage you to begin most jobs only after you have received a deposit. There are exceptions.

My clients usually send me their pages as files attached to e-mail, and after I have made the corrections in my Web editor, I return them by e-mail. While I know HTML, occasionally the owner of a site is not the Webmaster, and we have to work out whatever method is best for the immediate situation. When this occurs, and the job is brief, I sometimes copy the text from the site and paste it into my e-mail program or word processing program. I make corrections and notations, then e-mail the marked-up copy.

The complexities of Web design continue to increase, but with the appearance of WordPress, things are becoming much easier.. Some programs use layers, while others have their own internal coding and methods for uploading. To be on the safe side, edit the text in your word processing program, and leave the coding to the site owner. Whatever you do, work this out ahead of time, and do exactly what the client wants in terms of correcting existing text.

Often, in foreign text, one finds spaces between text and punctuation marks. One may also discover that writers from many other countries routinely do not indent the first line of each paragraph and do not use a two-line paragraph break. None of the above is wrong, however, you are editing for American-speaking people, and your job is to make sure the site text reads easily for them.

So, if you find foreign clients with a good product, who will pay you, and with whom you can communicate effectively, go for it! The boundaries for working with other businesses keep lowering, which is a good thing. If you have further questions, contact me.

For more information, contact Judy Vorfeld

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