With the globalisation of information channels, journalistic translation is increasingly in demand, whether by the media, news agencies or international companies. This unique type of translation requires not only strong linguistic skills, but, also excellent writing skills.
What is a journalistic translation?
Journalistic translation refers to the translation of content written by journalists for the media including for the written press, digital media, and audiovisual media:
- regional or national daily press
- weekly newspapers
- specialist magazines
- news agencies
- online magazines
Here are some examples of material that can be translated for journalistic purposes:
- print media articles
- web articles
- interviews (of an expert, a public figure, etc.)
- short stories (a news item with a brief description)
- press releases
- editorials (articles written by the newspapers’ management)
- reports of an event
- journalistic investigations
- mood notes
- open forums to express an opinion
- press reviews (a summary of the press on a given subject)
- personal portraits
- literary, gastronomic, sports, artistic and medical chronicles
- TV reports, documentaries, radio programmes, news programmes …
What are the challenges of journalistic translation?
Journalistic translation differs from technical and literary translation in several ways. It presents a number of specific challenges for the translator:
Respect for editorial constraints
The first challenge for the translator-journalist is to translate the text while respecting the editorial constraints of the media, as well as remaining faithful to the style of the author. The final content must be in line with the tone of the newspaper.
Journalistic translators must also take into account the target audience. Indeed, they will have to use specialist vocabulary if they are addressing a targeted audience (for example, for the translation of scientific, financial or medical articles).
For a more generalist article, however, which is intended to be shared with the general public, the translator will have to be careful to popularise very technical information. The level of the language used will also vary according to the target autdience: accessible language for young people, formal language for professionals and experts, etc.
In addition, journalistic translation can cover a wide range of sectors, including:
- sports journalism (general or sport-specific)
- cultural journalism (cinema, art, literature...)
- music journalism
- lifestyle journalism (fashion, beauty etc.)
- economic journalism
- political journalism
- culinary journalism
- scientific journalism
- investigative journalism
- medical journalism...
Respect for journalistic codes
Journalistic translation requires particularly sharp writing skills. A press article must capture the reader's attention and keep them in suspense until the end. The journalistic style needs to be dynamic, rhythmic, catchy, and must be easy to read. In journalistic translation, accuracy, transparency and objectivity are the key words.
Journalism is also governed by a number of specific standards, which may vary from country to country. Journalistic translation thus requires a good knowledge of the standards in force in the country concerned, as well as the editorial constraints specific to the type of medium.
For a printed article, for example, the translator will have to work hard to keep to the required number of characters and pages. Otherwise, the final layout of the newspaper may be affected. This is a real challenge because by translating from one language to another, the number of words will vary for the same text. In addition, the direction of reading may vary (from French to Arabic, for example), further affecting the layout of the paper.
When translating a web article, the translator may also have to take into account SEO constraints. The translator will have to provide an optimised article, if required by the client.
In addition, the journalistic translator may also have to translate a lot of additional information accompanying the article (sources, photo captions, computer graphics, visuals, quotes, etc.). They must therefore be familiar with translation of different types of media.
Translation with respect to local culture
Journalistic texts often have a strong cultural dimension. Indeed, journalistic writing lends itself to the use of idioms, wordplay, metaphors, figures of speech, surprise effects, allusions, etc.
This is another major challenge for the translator, who has to be very creative when translating and at the same time must respect the original intention and cultural dimension. The translator must deliver a perfectly intelligible text, which will not confuse the reader or generate misinterpretation and misunderstanding.
In short, the translator must succeed in respecting the editorial style of the journalist, while adapting the text to the local culture.
What skills are required to translate a journalistic text?
Faced with these many challenges, translators who specialise in the translation of journalistic texts must have very specific knowledge and skills. The following are the main skills that a journalistic translator needs to have:
- a strong creative sense
- clear awareness of the need to avoid any ambiguity that could alter the accuracy of the information
- a good knowledge of the journalistic profession, industry-specific jargon, different formats and the journalistic writing process
- a curious mind
- a solid general cultural knowledge
- a high level of responsiveness and ability to work under pressure to deal with hot news stories
- an excellent knowledge of the habits and customs of the destination country
- an ability to research information and identify reliable sources
- adaptability, in order to be able to translate various materials and subjects into different language levels
- an interest in current affairs
- a mastery of print and web media rules
- a knowledge of the editorial standards specific to the media of the destination country (short sentences, inclusive writing, etc.).
Who should I call to translate my journalistic text?
Journalistic translation can present major challenges. Indeed, the translated texts are often intended to be shared with a wide audience, with the aim of informing, explaining, qualifying or sharing important information.
Consequently, there is no room for error: the slightest mistake in translation could jeopardise the meaning of the text and therefore readers’ understanding, but could also damage the reputation and credibility of the media.
For this reason, it is essential to use a professional translator who is experienced in this type of translation. You can turn to a translation agency such as Optilingua, which has a large network of specialist translators who can provide you with reliable and high-quality journalistic translation services.
You can also call on the services of a specialist freelance translator, or a professional who is both a journalist and a translator.
A trusted translator must be able to guarantee:
- confidentiality of information
- the security of the data provided by the customer
- compliance with deadlines
- the possibility of dealing with emergency requests
- the quality and accuracy of the translation
As a reminder, a translator should always translate into their native language. In addition, to ensure the reliability of the translation, you should choose a translator based in the country where the target language is used. This way, the translator will be fully familiar with local news and cultural norms and will have an up-to-date vocabulary.
Answers to your questions about journalistic translation
The only way to reliably translate a journalistic text is to use a professional translator with experience in this type of translation and who has a thorough knowledge of the journalistic profession. Machine translation is not recommended for this type of content.
Translating a title is a challenge in itself for the translator. The headline must be catchy, enticing and immediately grab the reader's attention. When translating an article title, the translator must take into account the original intention and the effect generated, while ensuring that it is adapted to the local culture.
To translate a press article into Spanish, it is important to use a professional translator who specialises in journalistic translation and is a native Spanish speaker. The latter should preferably be a native speaker of the country where the target language is used (Spain, Mexico, Argentina etc.). There are many differences in vocabulary, grammar and conjugation between each variant of Spanish (European or Latin American).
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