Are you tasked with getting a text translated from English into Russian, but unsure about how to go about it? This article provides tips for getting this translation right the first time.
Professional English to Russian translation
The best choice you can make is to follow Robert Kiyosaki’s advice and hire competent people who will help you get much better results than you could achieve on your own. For a language as excruciatingly difficult as Russian, this could not be more true. With punctuation rules and tens of word forms that even highly educated native speakers struggle with, Russian is one of the most challenging languages to translate into.
Engaging a professional translator is also imperative if you expect top quality. Otherwise, you end up with a flawed translation.
Alternative options for getting a Russian translation
The two most common alternatives to hiring professionals are doing the translation yourself and having it done by a machine translation service. Both options can be viable as long as quality is unimportant.
- Machine translation is an excellent choice for things like personal correspondence, because there is little or no risk attached to errors. If anything is unclear in the translation, the other party can ask you for clarification.
- Asking your Russian-speaking staff or friends to translate less important materials into Russian can also be a viable option. Just make sure that you give it to the most capable person and ideally arrange proofreading by a pro for a fraction of cost of a professional translation.
That said, it is crucial to understand that neither of these options makes sense for important business matters. Although you do save some money, these savings come with huge hidden costs; that is, lost profits due to projecting an unprofessional image that turns away clients.
Rates differ widely, from as low as $0.05 per translated word to as much as $0.30. The most important thing to remember in this regard is that the translation industry is largely an agency market, just like real estate. Often there are one or more agencies involved in a translation project, with each middleman getting his hefty cut. In other words, a high price does not necessarily mean high quality—it might just mean that your money is building a fourth house for a middleman. Another thing that I have found in my 10+ years in this business is that after a certain price point, say $0.12 per word, there is not much difference in quality for most types of texts. A rate that is too low is also alarming, because it will likely mean “sweatshop” translators. So, aiming for the middle of the range suggested above seems like a good idea.
Different tone of voice
Russian is more reserved than English in tone of voice. Transferred into Russian word for word, the more colloquial and metaphorical style characteristic of English often seems inappropriate. Unless you don’t mind literal translations that strike readers as clumsy, you need a translation vendor who is capable of producing high-quality texts—yet another reason to work with professionals.
Russian translations almost invariably expand in length compared to English. If the text flows from page to page freely, this is not a problem, but it becomes a challenge when space is limited. I am talking things like software GUI, images, and so on. If you have a text like this, make sure that the translation is proofread in its final form. For instance, if your vendor delivers the translation as an intermediate file for future insertion into the final format, the vendor needs to proofread the translation in context after it is inserted. Another best practice is to leave as much free space for text expansion as possible. Avoid abbreviating words, because although this does make things easier during translation, end users will not appreciate words that are difficult to understand.
With some languages, such as German, it might be acceptable to leave a few English words untranslated, because those cultures are exposed to a lot of English, with many people speaking English quite well. This is not the case with Russian, however. Russian-speaking people have less exposure to English. For example, they watch dubbed versions of Hollywood movies, with Russian voiceover talent speaking for the actors. It is therefore important to have as little text untranslated as possible.
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