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What is a house style and does my organisation need one?

23 October 2019 - Posted by Helene Walters-Steinberg

What is a house style and does my organisation need one?

A house style is essentially a set of rules regarding the writing and presentation of the documents produced within your organisation. From a visual perspective, it can set out the font style and size, the colours to be used and the placement of the logo, for example. This ensures that all your documents are consistent and strengthens your brand image. Many large organisations have their own style guide, which must be followed for all documents produced for an external audience, such as white papers, journal and blog articles, and publications. The style guide does not reiterate the basic rules of grammar but provides a reference for which choices to make. This can include topics such as British vs. American spelling, hyphens, smart capitals in titles, abbreviations and italics.


Why are house styles useful for translators?

By providing your translator with your organisation’s style guide, they can ensure that the translation fits in with your current publications. By providing them with a detailed brief of what you are expecting, through the style guide, you can cut down on the number of questions they will need to ask you (thereby speeding up the process) and increase the quality of the final translation.


Where can I find a template style guide?

Right here! I have put together a template style guide based on those I use regularly in my business. It will allow you to clarify your preferences regarding spelling, hyphenation, italics,  numbers, dates, punctuation, references, acronyms and abbreviations, currencies, bulleted lists, and titles and headings.


What if I want a style guide but don’t want to set the preferences myself?

You can always use an existing style manual if you don’t want to take the time to set the individual preferences. Some of the most common style guides for British English are the Oxford Style Manual (formerly known as Hart’s Rules), the Guardian and Observer style guide, the Telegraph style book and The Time Style Guide. For American English, have a look at the AP Stylebook, the Financial Times style guide, the APA Style Guide or the Chicago Manual of Style. Or for a book that can be used for both types of English, see The Economist Style Guide.

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Book Review: Legal Translation Outsourced (J. R. Scott)

13 August 2019 - Posted by Helene Walters-Steinberg

Juliette Scott’s Legal Translation Outsourced serves as a bridge between practitioners of legal translation and research into language and law. It offers an analysis of the key risks and constraints for commercial legal translation and also puts forth original theoretical models to assist legal translators and other stakeholders.

Although the field of legal translation itself is quite vast, legal translators often specialise in specific areas (such as corporate documents, financial-legal documents, notarial documents, court-related documents, insurance documents, legislation, certificates or patents). Legal translators need to be familiar with the subject matter, which can be highly technical, while also mastering information technology (such as CAT tools or electronic corpora) and possessing intercultural competencies.  Legal documents often follow codified rules of writing and presentation, with which legal translators need to be familiar in order to ensure that their translation meets the genre conventions that the readers expect to see. 

Scott mentions the use of electronic corpora several times in this book. Although most translators are familiar with CAT tools (Computer-Assisted-Translation), the use of electronic corpora is not yet widespread. Scott argues that electronic corpora could help legal translators solve issues such as collocations (e.g. whether to use “hold harmless from” or “hold harmless against”), therefore making the target text more acceptable to its intended audience.

One of the issues facing legal translation is that the translators are often not in direct contact with the commissioners of the translation. As a result, they are not always aware of the expectations they need to meet. Translations should always be fit for purpose, but if the translator is not aware of that purpose they may struggle to make certain linguistical and textual decisions. However, if the translator has been correctly briefed, then this brief can be used to assess the quality of the final translation.  According to the Standard Guide for Quality Assurance in Translation  published by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), the key elements a translator must be aware of are the target audience, the purpose, the style relevance and reference materials. Logistical constraints such as the amount of time allocated for the translation task, the size of the budget (which may determine the extent of revision and proofreading) and file formats must also be taken into account.

After analysing past research on translation briefs as well as some of the guidelines published by the British Council and the European Union, Scott provides her own preliminary list of legal translation brief components:

  •          Intended purpose of source and target texts
  •          Genre of source and target texts
  •          Legal status of source and target texts
  •          Reference material
  •      Legal systems and laws governing the source and target texts
  •          End-user of target text.

She also suggests using the words “document for translation” (instead of “source text”) and “translated text” (instead of “target text”) to make things clearer to clients who are not necessarily aware of the jargon used by translators.

The next part of the book focuses on the results of an in-depth survey she sent to lawyers and translation agencies operating in the legal field. The detailed analysis provided allows her to refine the preliminary list of translation brief components and put forward a legal translation brief. This comprehensive brief allows translators to obtain all the information they need to provide a high-quality translation that is fit-for-purpose. I would highly encourage colleagues working in the field of legal translation to read this book and to develop their own translation brief based on her model.

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What is ISO 17100 and what does it mean for translation clients?

24 July 2019 - Posted by Helene Walters-Steinberg

ISO 17100:2015 is the internationally recognised standard for translation from the International Organisation for Standardisation. It was created in 2015 to replace quality standard EN 15038, which ensured the consistent quality of translation services.  Unlike EN 15038, ISO 17100 sets minimum standards and qualifications for translation professionals and defines specific translation steps to be followed in order to achieve quality.

It is worth noting that this standard does not apply to interpreters.

What does a translator need to prove in order to be ISO 17100:2015 Qualified?

The requirements for ISO 17100:2015 are divided in three parts:

-          Qualifications and Experience: translators must have:

o    “a certificate of competence in translation awarded by an appropriate government body”

o   OR a graduate degree in another field and the equivalent of 2 years full-time professional translation experience

o   OR five years of full-time professional experience in translating.

-          Continuing Professional Development (CPD): translators must record the courses, reading and research they undertake each year to maintain their skills. While the ISO standard doesn’t set a minimum requirement, many professional translators’ organisations do (e.g. the Institute of Translation and Interpreting recommends that all its members undertake 30 hours of CPD in each membership year).

-          Competency:

o    Translation: the ability to translate texts, including addressing source and target language problems

o   Linguistic and textual skills in the source and target languages

o   Research, information acquisition and processing skills

o   Knowledge of the source and target cultures

o   Knowledge of the source text domain

What is the translation process set out by ISO 17100:2015?

1-      Translation and check by the translator

2-      Revision by a second linguist ­(also known as bilingual editing)

3-      Review (an optional step designed in order to assess the suitability of the translation against the agreed purpose and domain)

4-      Proofreading (an optional final check before printing)

What does it mean for you if a translator (or translation company) says they are ISO 17100:2015 Qualified?

First of all, it is proof of quality. You can be confident that they are working to a recognised international standard. In addition, most translators who make the effort to fulfil all the requirements and obtain the ISO Qualifications are forward-thinking professionals who continuously try to ensure they provide the best quality translation. You will also know that at least two qualified professionals have worked on the translation, thus increasing its quality.

It also makes it easier for you to find translators you can trust. By searching for members of professional associations who have met this standard, you can streamline your research process and easily find high-quality professional standards for the language combination and area of specialisation you need.

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Book review: Guide pratique de la traduction juridique (F. Houbert)

08 July 2019 - Posted by Helene Walters-Steinberg

Frédéric Houbert’s Guide pratique de la traduction juridique is intended for university students and translation professionals. It provides a clear overview of issues related to legal translation and includes an index, a glossary and a detailed bibliography.

In the first part of the book, Frédéric Houbert presents the main characteristics of legal language in English and in French and the specificities of legal translation from English to French. In the second part, entitled “Culture and legal translation”, he focuses on specific topics such as the translation of culture-bound terms and  the translation of film titles containing legal expressions, . Finally, the last section of the book, is a selection of 16 legal documents translated with commentary, providing a practical illustration of the points mentioned in the rest of the book.

I very much enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to all those who are interested in legal translation from English to French or French to English. Its practical focus, with the commented translations at the end of the book and the many examples provided for each point, makes it quite suited to translation professionals who are starting to specialise in the field of legal translation or who would like to refresh their knowledge on the topic. Application exercises are provided at the end of each chapter, although unfortunately the answers are not provided, which reduces their utility somewhat.

The author has also compiled an excellent dictionary, which is a good addition to this volume. While the Guide pratique de la traduction juridique sheds some light on the complexities of legal translation and culture, the Dictionnaire de terminologie juridique works as a quick reference for legal terms and concepts, as it provides numerous explanations with translation suggestions.

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The Certified Translation of Diplomas and Transcripts

18 June 2019 - Posted by Helene Walters-Steinberg

As part of our series on certified translations, this article focuses on the translation of diplomas and transcripts for university or job applications.

Although the translation process itself is similar to the translation process described in the previous post on certified translations, the translation of diplomas and transcripts has a few specificities.


Does the translation of my diploma or transcript need to be certified?

Absolutely, as the receiving entity needs to know that the translation corresponds exactly to the original document. Only a certified translation signed and stamped by an accredited translator can be used as proof of obtention of a diploma or degree.


Who can provide a certified translation of my diploma or transcript?

Certified translations into English can be provided by full members of the Chartered Institute of Linguists or the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (you can click on the hyperlinks to go to the list of members for each Institute, and then refine based on the language required). If you find yourself with a long list of potential translators, I would recommend contacting the translator closest to you so that you can provide them with the physical documents if needed.

Certified translations of transcripts and diplomas should also be accompanied by a Certificate of translation presenting the translator’s credentials and contact details. Each page should also be stamped and signed by the translator. This guarantees the authenticity of the translation and allows you to be confident that the receiving institution will accept it.


What is the turnaround time for the certified translation of a diploma or transcript?

Time frames for the certified translation of educational documents vary, but it is worth bearing in mind that transcripts can be rather time-consuming to translate due to their complex formatting that needs to be reproduced in the certified translation. In addition, there is often a significant amount of research required to accurately translate course titles and content. When it comes to diplomas and degrees, translators are not authorised to provide equivalencies, so they will often leave the name of the degree in the original language and include a translator’s note explaining the number of years and type of course.


Should I provide additional documents to assist the certified translation of my diploma or transcript?

 If possible, I would recommend providing the translator with any documents you have detailing the courses (or giving them a link to the course description online, if there is one). This can help them better understand the content of each module and provide a more accurate translation of the title.



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