Hello, my name is Sarah and I am a Gengo Language Specialist for the DE – EN and DE – EN-GB language pairs. I was born and bred in England, and moved to Germany nearly 15 years ago. My main job is as a translator from German to English and I do a little English teaching on the side.


The focus of this post is some of the common errors I see when doing GoCheck reviews. I will talk about one main area this time and hope to cover other issues in the future. But first, I would like to talk about the qualities needed as a translator. Forgive me if this all sounds obvious, but it is worth summarising what the requirements are to do this job, to explain why I find it important to cover today’s topic.


In a nutshell, the aim of a good translator is to produce a text that looks as if it was written in the target language, with no hint of its being a translation. There should be no awkward phrasing, and the writing must be clear and grammatically correct. Which is why one of the main criteria for being a translator is only to translate into your own native language. If I see a text written by someone whose native language is not English, I know. The client and the client’s audience (for whom the translation is produced) should not find any clues that the writer is not native in this language. A native speaker, especially one who is good with their language, knows by instinct if something is “off”, even if they can’t explain why.


This is the reason why I want to focus on the little things, those small details that might seem unimportant, but actually make a lot of difference. And which may well make the difference between your translation being marked as a 10 and losing marks for things that are easily avoidable.


A very basic issue is format. If you are translating a file, whether Word or any other type, please use the font type and size used in the original document. Where appropriate use bold or italics as in the original. I say where appropriate because in some cases it is correct to use italics in English, for instance for a book title, rather than quotation marks (we would write A Tale of Two Cities instead of “A Tale of Two Cities”). If quotation marks are called for, though, use English ones not German ones! And don’t copy German punctuation because it isn’t the same as English. I used an exclamation mark two sentences ago, but don’t slavishly copy all the ones you see in German, because we don’t use nearly as many in English. As you no doubt know, commas often have a different function. Remember, too, that English rules for capitalisation are different from the German ones, so nouns are only capitalised if they are proper names or at the beginning of a sentence, unless they are part of a title (“the president of the United States” or “President Biden”) or heading.


When translating in the Gengo Workbench you might think that formatting is not an issue. But when I am doing GoChecks I often see extra line breaks or extra spaces between sentences. The reason for these is almost always that the translator has simply added a space or spaces at the end of a segment. You won’t see the result in the translation, but it is very visible when downloaded, and I will mark it as an error.


There are many other things such as correct currency formulas (e.g. “€650,000” should be written instead of “650,000.00 euros”); spacing before, for instance, abbreviations for measurements (e.g. “65 mm” instead of “65mm”); lack of spaces before a percentage or degree sign (“60°C” instead of “60 ° C” and “100%” Instead of “100 %”); translation of names (don’t do it, but do add a translation or explanation in brackets if necessary. In this case, “Herrencreme ist DER Klassiker in Westfalen”, there is no need for a translation as Herrencreme is the name of a dessert, but this could be added as an explanation if the text does not make it clear); commas in numbers to denote thousands, and full stops to denote decimal place. Please see the Gengo Style Guide and use it or use Google if you are in doubt.


And finally, never fail to proof-read your work before you deliver and correct the odd typo before it’s too late.


I hope you will find these tips helpful. Please feel free to leave questions or comments.



1 comment

  • 3

    Thanks for this; it's very helpful, and I look forward to reading more of them for the DE>EN language pair.  Paul

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