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Hello again, and welcome to this month’s review of common errors that have occurred in recent translations. See here for my last article.

 

Unfortunately, there are some issues that crop up every month, many of which are easily remedied, and which would involve little effort for translators to pick up a few extra marks by avoiding them. One of these issues is that of sentence formation: capitalisation and punctuation.

 

 You are, of course, well aware that German rules for both capitalisation and punctuation are different from English rules. In the majority of cases where the original text uses good grammar in German, it is relatively easy to apply the English rules in your translation automatically. But Gengo does receive many texts for translation that have a lot of errors in the original. These tend to include survey results and the like, which can frequently be poorly written or poorly transcribed.

 

My first point is that, even if the original contains neither capital letters nor punctuation, it is your job as a translator to produce an English version that is as grammatically correct and as easy to read as possible. Unless the client leaves instructions to the contrary, this means adding a capital at the beginning of each sentence, a full stop/period at the end, and the appropriate punctuation and capitals elsewhere. So, when your original reads:

 

German:  fortlaufen der handlung und sehen ob es so weitergeht wie ich vermute und ob ich richtig geegen hätte was noch passiert und wer wer ist und wie die aktioen der einzellnen personen zusammen hängen

 

Your translation should not read:

 

English: continue the plot and see if it continues as I suspect it will and whether my guess is right about what else is going to happen and who is who and how the actions of the individual characters are connected.

 

But rather something like:

 

Continue the plot and see whether it continues as I suspect it will, and whether my guess is right about what else is going to happen, and who is who, and how the actions of the individual characters are connected.

 

The correct punctuation and capitals make the text far more legible. In this case the client had left no instructions at all, so you could even split this rather long sentence into two:

 

Continue the plot and see whether it continues as I suspect it will. And whether my guess is right about what else is going to happen, and who is who, and how the actions of the individual characters are connected.

 

If, however, as sometimes happens, the instructions state that the same number of sentences should be retained in the translation as in the original, this is, of course, not an option.

 

Conversely, in cases where capitals should be used in German, they should only be copied over into the translation when they are required: the beginning of a sentence or for proper nouns, and in some cases for titles or headings. So, in a list of ingredients for a product,

 

German:  Rohprotein 12,6 %, Rohfaser 0,0 %, Rohfett 0,0 %...

 

English: Crude Protein 12.6%, Crude Fiber 0.0%, Crude Fat 0.0%...

 

most of the capitals are not required. Instead,

 

Crude protein 12.6%, crude fiber 0.0%, crude fat 0.0%...

 

is correct, with only the first capital required since Crude protein starts the new sentence.

 

Be aware of what is a name in English, and where a capital letter is required: in some cases, a chemical ingredient, for example, may require a capital. If in doubt, use Google.

 

Another issue which cropped up in this translation related to the dosage for the product

German: 25 g/Tag

 

Which was translated as:

 

English: 25 g/day

 

When in fact the normal format in English is:

 

25 g per day.

 

This crops up often in various formats, but the rule is generally that in English we write per hour, per day etc. instead of using a slash. There is the occasional exception: for instance, although miles per hour, abbreviated as MPH is correct, the format for kilometres (kilometers in US English, of course) per hour is km/h.

 

As an aside, the translation I refer to above was on the subject of horse feed. And one of the feeds listed was:

 

German: Müsli

 

Which does not translate as

 

English: muesli

 

But as

 

mixed feed.

 

If you look at my avatar, you will see me sitting on a horse, and when it comes to horse-related translations, I am very familiar with the terminology in both English and German: in English muesli is something you or I might find on the table at breakfast, but would never feed to a horse. Although I’m sure my horse wouldn’t turn her nose up at what an English speaker thinks of as muesli, if I bought her bags of feed in the English-speaking world, they would be labelled differently! My point here being that there are many false friends you need to be aware of, and this is just one example.

 

Another point I need to reiterate is that being familiar with the Gengo style guide (US English or GB English) is essential. It gives you handy tips about what is expected of your translations, and what Gengo’s preferences are. If in doubt when you are writing a sum of money, for instance, refer to the guide. Don’t lose marks because of errors that are easily avoided by knowing the style guide.

 

That’s it this time. I look forward to your comments – please keep them coming.

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