STEP ONE: Evaluate material for cultural relevance.
Does the material really meet a felt need in Russian society? Don't assume that people in Moscow face the same issues as those in Minneapolis or Munich. Even if the basic subject matter is one that will appeal to Russians, eliminate examples and illustrations applicable only in the West. For example, seeking God's will on what model car to buy is not appropriate for a Russian audience. Before beginning the translation process, get the opinions of several Russians about the value of the project
STEP TWO: Prepare the material for translation.
After excluding all the culturally inappropriate examples, read the material critically. Determine if the translator could misinterpret certain phrases or ideas. On a conceptual level, look for adequate explanations of all basic Christian ideas and clear definitions of all terms. For example, Russian translators may have difficulty understanding the negative connotations of "humanism." This lack of comprehension of basic premises will distort the translation in most of its details. On a syntactic level, avoid the use of outlines that give translators too few clues to work accurately. Eliminate or explain in parentheses any idioms, figures of speech, or sentences with possible double meanings. Avoid word plays. Pre-editing is tedious work, but it pays great dividends in translation accuracy and time saved in re-editing.
STEP THREE: Find capable translators and editors.
Don't assume that Russians who speak fluent English will be qualified translators. Oral interpretation and written translation are two different skills. Seek recommendations from others. Ask for examples of a translator's (or editor's) work and have an independent editor you trust evaluate it for content, theological accuracy, literary style, and grammar. Consider a contract with a publisher who, for an all-inclusive fee, will handle every aspect of the project from translation to printing. This is a large commitment. Carefully check out any publisher's reputation for reliability and honesty.
STEP FOUR: Allow plenty of time for the completion of a project.
Most translators and editors work on several projects simultaneously. It may be expensive to persuade them to preempt previously scheduled assignments in order to complete a rush project. Also, keep in mind that translation is a time-intensive creative process, rather than a mechanical one. Unfortunately, people too often sacrifice quality in order to meet unrealistic deadlines.
STEP FIVE: Have clearly defined expectations.
Use very specific contracts that stipulate penalties for not meeting deadlines. Clearly state that full payment will take place only after a project is received, evaluated, and approved. When contracting for printing, check paper samples and agree ahead of time on compensation for defective copies. Determine all that the contracted price includes. Don't forget packaging and delivery. Lastly, plan to do a thorough check of the final product no matter how good the translators and editors seem. Let them know you will be submitting their work for independent evaluation.
Cindy Le Clair (M.A. Intercultural Communication, Wheaton Graduate School) has lived and worked in Russia with her husband Ray since May 1991. She is translation coordinator for the Center for Educational Programs, a joint ministry of Association of Christian Schools International and Walk Thru the Bible Ministries.
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© 1993 East-West Church and Ministry Report