Translation Process: A Glimpse

By Tom Castor | April 25, 2017 |

In the past 10 years, the “little book” has made its way into 31 languages and print copies have made their way into the hands of more than 250,000 people (approaching 300,000). Until recently, we had no way of tracking how many electronic copies have been sent or downloaded in that period. We don’t add those to our number because we can only guess. This means that more than 30 times, we have gone through a process that resulted in a translated publication. To most people, that’s sounds simple and rather straightforward. To those who have attempted to do something like it, you know better.

One of the challenges is identifying a competent translator who not only knows the language, but also understands the theological material. He or she must also know the implications of word choices and be sensitive to nuances that can bias a reader in unecessary ways. This is even more complicated when one language is spoken in mutiple dialects.

To provide you with a “taste” of the process, here is a piece of correspondence with a potential translator that is representative of many that we have written.

Great to hear from you!

It has taken many months, but we have finally been successful.

As you already have seen, the “little book” is intended to help disciple/train new believers in Jesus. It uses a question and answer format. It is about 6,000 words in length. The book was written in English with translation in mind. It is now in 31 languages. I have attached two language translations on this email that you are also familiar with. I hope that these will be helpful. We have had many requests for (language), but could never find someone with the skill you possess that was willing or able to help. We are happy that God has allowed us to connect.

To help you get a picture of the project, you can access the document for translation at www.asimpleword.org. You will find the English version there, as well as other languages for reference. The A Simple Word site will give you a picture of some the other kinds of things we are trying to do.

My research on (language) is limited, but I know that there are dialect decisions to make moving forward. I will need to trust your expertise on the choices. My goal is to make the book available/acceptable to the greatest number of (language) speakers/readers. The book will likely go to print in the future, but will be available for electronic distribution almost immediately after it goes through final edits.

As we discussed, there is a process of blind back-translation that will follow the initial drafts. As you know, this means that we give the translation to someone who is also fluent in (language) and ask him or her to put the document back into English with no reference to the original. After we discuss the variations and decide what grammar and word choices need further work, we can proceed. This can be annoying and adds to the timeline, but I know that we all want to be as clear and precise as possible.

Do not worry too much about the author/publisher names in the introductory pages. Those normally get “scrubbed” for various reasons before the book goes to print.

Thank you again for your willingness to help with this. I am very thankful.

In hope,

Tom

PS. Once you get a sense of the scope of the task, let me know how to help you proceed. Generally, the best way to send a document with a complex script is by .PDF. This normally assures that the pre-publication script arrives in tact.

Tom Castor

Tom Castor

Thomas Castor, founder of Clear and Simple Media Group, is a seasoned writer and communicator who has been delivering content with clarity and simplicity for 30 years.