Your best ally when translating nature-related texts (is not an online dictionary): a parallel text.

You're translating whatever text. You speak the target language but don't feel sure enough about some words and expressions. You search for them on an online dictionary. Is this enough? Should you use another type of translation tool? Definitely, yes!

When it comes to translation, the first thing many people do is looking for an online dictionary. The right thing is that this can effectively help you but isn’t the best material to count on. So, this article isn’t aimed at forbidding the usage of online dictionaries, but at encouraging you to use another sort of tool that will definitely help you reach top-level writing in your target language: a parallel text.

How Egyptians will help you translate your wildlife and ecotourism texts

To be more specific, the Rosetta Stone will. This stone was carved in 196 B.C. and found in 1799 with two different languages on it. One of them was Ancient Egyptian (unknown language by nowadays societies), while the other one was Ancient Greek (understood by Greek specialists nowadays). By understanding the Greek side of the Stone, François Champollion was the first person to decipher hieroglyphics, and so the first one to understand the Ancient Egyptian.

Are you ready to decipher your target language like François Champollion?

Your best ally when translating nature-related words and texts isn’t an online dictionary but a parallel text.

Have you ever heard of this? The first meaning of this concept is a text translated into several languages (parallel translations).

This is the definition from Aston University:

Creating an appropriate translation often means adapting the target text (TT) to the text-typological conventions of the target culture. Such knowledge can be gained by a comparative analysis of parallel texts, i.e. L2 and L1 texts of equal informativity which have been produced in similar communicative situations.

In other words, you can rely on another text of a similar topic to translate your text. As easy as it may sound. Rely on its words, on its structure, on its expressions, and so on. If you find an outstanding parallel text, take profit of it. It doesn’t mean you have to copy everything; you only have to base your translation on it. Look, study and notice the way it’s written.

Let’s imagine you need to translate a website text about the facilities of your hostel from English into Spanish. What sort of parallel text would you look for?

A Spanish hostel may have its facilities on its website so go and take a look. Notice the vocabulary and the way it’s written. This website will be your source parallel text.

A parallel text can be a book, an online document, a website, even a post on Instagram. It all depends on what you’re translating and what you need.

You might need a specific-niche vocabulary, typological conventions, text formality, or whatever. Like François Champollion did to understand Ancient Egyptian.

Why is it important to rely on a parallel text?

This post isn’t aimed at banning you from using an online dictionary. Both parallel texts and online dictionaries can work together. This post is for you to observe that a parallel text can definitely help you get a high-quality translation, so that your foreign customers will understand you the best way.

The following are the advantages of using parallel texts:

  • More accurate target text. Because you’re sure that someone within the nature or the accommodation field uses a specific term or word.
  • More effective for your customers. If you use an accurate vocabulary and words used within this field, your clients will understand straight away what you mean.

This is the power of a parallel text. The power of quality in your target language.

The hell of translating specialised nature terminology: should I also use a parallel text?

But what exactly is specialized nature terminology? You can read a definition in this article.

Words coming from the scientific field that are conventional designations for a specific type of plant, animal or fungus. Have a look at the chart below:

LatinEnglishSpanish
Pinus halepensisAleppo pinePino carrasco
Upupa epopsHoopoeAbubilla
Linx pardinaSpanish lynxLince ibérico
Trifolium pratenseRed cloverTrébol rojo

You can see the Latin names and the official designations for these animals and plants in English and Spanish. Regarding the red clover, we can also hear ‘purple clover’, but the official designation is ‘red clover’. But, how can we actually get to know that ‘purple clover’ is less used than ‘red clover’ within the nature field? Reading a text on this topic!

However, my best advice as for terminology is: be careful. Why? Because there are plenty of common names geographically spread out in all languages. You should look for the one conventionally accepted in the language you’re translating to. Sometimes different countries speaking the same language have different designations. Then you only must be sure who you’re talking to.

To sum up, in this regard, it’s better to use specialised-terminology (official) websites or dictionaries that work well. Of course, also a parallel text!

How and when to use a parallel text for nature texts

How

  1. Look for a text that you think may contain words or phrases you can use in your translation.
  2. Read it from top to bottom.
  3. If it’s an online text, you can use the ‘Find’ tool (Ctrl+F) only if you have the slightest idea what this word might be.
  4. You already found the word, read the context in which it’s written. Does it match the context of the original word (in the source language)?
  5. If so, you got it. If not, start again and keep searching.

When

Every translation! Whenever you need to be sure how something is said in the target language and within the nature field. Imagine you’re translating a text on rocks and geomorphology, but you don’t really master this specialty. Go and search for a text by an expert at rocks!

Final considerations or why not everyone understanding Spanish can translate into Spanish

Knowing all this information, you’ll have to use both dictionaries and parallel texts at the same time. Dictionaries are general, while parallel texts may be general, specific, scientific, whatever.

It doesn’t matter if you’re translating into your native tongue, you’ll probably need a parallel text anyway. For instance, when I translated a book on natural beekeeping, I had to use parallel texts on apiculture in Spanish, because I’m not used to writing on this topic. I was basically looking for terminology and collocations within this field.

And this is what you should do with every text you translate. Tell me, in your opinion, is it useful to look for parallel texts? I read your comments.

About the author

Hi, I’m Llorenç Crespo. My purpose is to help ecotourism and nature-related organisations raise their voice, spread their purpose, and expand their borders. It’s about changing the world, a challenging mission, but the fruits of hard work are sweeter than the sweetest of nectars.

If you want to take the first step on this path through letters and trees, I strongly recommend that you download my freebie “5 tips to engage more responsible travellers with your positive impact. Using just words and a bit of great design.”.
If you’re among those people who have little time to spare, but you’d like to keep on this track, you can hire my services.

I’m a nature lover, but I have my shortcomings too. Every little step in my life led me to found Flumen Ecolinguistics. You can read my story here.

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