When your writing is routinely translated into other languages, you might need to begin to develop glossaries for your translator. This is so proper nouns, slang words and other confusing phrases are not lost in translation. Words that we take for granted here in America or in other English-speaking countries mean absolutely nothing in places like France, Spain and Mexico.
Providing Glossaries for Your Translator: Slang & Cliches
Most of us use slang words and cliches in our writing (i.e. “pad” instead of “apartment”) that do not translate well into foreign languages. The problem is that your translator may miss slang and translate it literally or be unfamiliar with it altogether. This is especially true for informal writing or fiction writing in which dialogue contains slang. This is also true for phrases that we use (i.e. a bird in the palm is worth two in the bush) that aren’t used in other languages.
Providing Glossaries for Your Translator: Jokes
Jokes are notoriously difficult to translate because of the slang and “understood” phrasing used as the punchline. This is also true for “creative titles” that use puns to make a tongue-in-cheek point; when translated into a foreign language, they won’t make a whole lot of sense. If you’re going to make jokes in your writing, be sure to explain those jokes in full to your translator in a glossary.
Providing Glossaries for Your Translator: Foreign Words
Although we speak in English, we often use words from a different language in our everyday speech, which will be confusing for a translator because those words don’t necessarily mean the same thing in the other language. It is best to include those words in a glossary along with an explanation for how they are used. You might also need to include the genders for those words in order for the translator to handle them properly.
Providing Glossaries for Your Translator: Brand Names
When you want to blow your nose, you might ask for a Kleenex, just as you might request a Coke when you are thirsty. These brand names may have little or no meaning for translators or for readers in a different language. You can either avoid using them entirely in writings that will eventually be translated (use tissue and soda, for example) or you can flag them in your glossary and allow the translator to insert the explanation for the brand name.
Providing Glossaries for Your Translator: Abbreviations
Another problem that often presents itself in translations is abbreviations, which may be obvious to Americans but are meaningless in foreign languages. For example you might write an article that includes a recipe and use abbreviations like “c” for cups, “ts” for teaspoons and “qts” for quarts. Most other countries use the metric system, anyway, but even if they are familiar with our measurements, they might be confused by abbreviations of those measurements. The same goes for abbreviations of titles, such as “Mgr.” for “manager” or “PVT” for “Private”.