With 35 years of experience in both commercial and editorial translations, First Edition Translations provide a wide range of professional language services to businesses and individuals.  

We caught up with Social Media Marketing Consultant Anikó Pető recently to find out more about the services they offer, to get some top tips on how to find good translators,  and some advice on how to avoid important pitfalls when publishing a foreign language edition of a title.

First Edition Translations is one of the UK’s oldest translation agencies.  Tell us a bit about your role at the company and how you work with publishers.

First Edition Translations was founded in 1981 and we are proud to say that we are a founder member of the UK-based Institute of Translation and Interpreting. Our company started out as an editorial agency and although now we do a lot of commercial translations, as well, we still pride ourselves in providing a comprehensive service to publishers.

Anikó Pető photoI am currently focusing on marketing at the company but I was part of the First Edition Project Manager Team for 7 years. This means that I was involved in all kinds of translation projects from start to finish. At the moment we have six very experienced project managers in-house who look after our clients’ projects. Let’s say, you give us a call to enquire about translating your publication into five languages. The project manager who talks to you on the phone about it for the first time would most probably see through your entire project, starting with preparing a proposal for you that includes a suggested project timeline, as well as a price estimate based on our rates and taking your budget into consideration. Once you have agreed on all the details and the project is ready to start, they would select the best language professionals from our extensive database for your publication. (Although, as we have such a long-standing relationship with our translators and editors, and we know which subject matters they excel in, your project manager would probably already have someone specific in mind by the time they prepare the proposal for you.)

Then, once the project takes off, First Edition would act as an intermediary between yourself and our linguists, replying to your queries and their questions. Your dedicated project manager checks through the translated files again before they go back to you, just to make sure they are indeed ready to be sent out.

Translation rights are at the heart of what we do at IPR.  From your experience, what factors can have an effect on a publication’s success abroad? Presumably, a lot relies on the quality of the translation, yes?

I would say one of the most important factors is indeed a good quality translation. If the text reads unnaturally in the target market’s language or (god forbid!) has some mistranslations, no amount of fancy cover design or marketing will save you from plummeting sales.

So how can you go about getting a high-quality translation?

There are various options, however, one of the simplest and most straightforward solution is going to a professional language service provider or LSP. There are many ways an LSP can help you, and it would make a long article if we were to list all of them, but if you want to sum it up in one word, you could say that a good LSP can be your “one stop shop” for getting a print-ready version of your book.

Publishers often find it difficult to discover good translators.  How can First Edition help with this challenge and what other project managers are you able to bring to the table?

As you can imagine, a good translation starts with a good translator but as you say theyFirst Edition Translations logo might be hard to find if you are not quite sure where to look for them. Luckily, an experienced LSP such as First Edition knows where translators hide and how they can be found. They will get the right linguist or linguists for your project carefully selected by their educational background, work experience or even hobbies. Professional LSPs will know that the highest standards can only be achieved by qualified, knowledgeable and talented translators who only translate into their mother tongue.

However, a good translation does not end with a good translator. You also need an excellent editor and a superb proofreader who are both highly skilled native speakers of the language in question. You might also need some help with typesetting, especially when foreign scripts are concerned. First Edition will work together with the best professionals to help you prepare your text for publication.

Knowing the culture of a country is also vitally important when publishing a foreign language edition of a title.  Can you explain some of the pitfalls you try and avoid, and give us an example of where you have stepped in to ensure that the text was suitable for a particular audience?

Language is closely intertwined with culture, and you cannot ignore the latter when producing a new publication for a foreign market. First Edition will be able to advise you on all things cultural. Starting with small things such as the most commonly used units in the target country, advising on imagery to make sure no offensive or culturally inappropriate pictures make to the final product or pointing out if certain references to local laws or organisations might need to be adapted.

We’ve recently had a project when certain holidays had to be localised. In Germany Santa Claus makes his visit on the 6th December but just imagine, if the UK edition had the same date, poor English children would have been rather confused! And in some cases, you also have to tread carefully when working on language learning books or phrase books: there might be some sample dialogues that need to be localised as the direct translation might be irrelevant or even offensive in the target country.

We can suggest some reasonable and useful changes to ensure that the final text is suitable for the audience. Also, if you have a cultural question you are not sure about, we will give you some advice even if it concerns just one small word in hundreds of pages.

Project managing a book’s publication overseas can sometimes be a stressful experience.  How can First Edition help with this process and which markets are you working in right now?

First Edition Translations bannerHaving to work together with several translators, editors, typesetters, proofreaders and cultural advisors in (possibly) several languages at the same time while racing against tight deadlines can be quite a daunting task.

Of course, it is understandable that you would always like to know what’s happening with your project, so if you go with an LSP like First Edition, you will have the added benefit of one dedicated project manager instead of having to keep in touch with several people. They will be your first and only contact for your localisation project, who will act as a connecting point between you and all the language professionals involved. They will keep you up-to-date with how the project is progressing and will only bother you with relevant questions, so you don’t have to worry about the small things.

Not surprisingly, we have always done a lot of work for the UK market and we often work on Americanisation projects and translations for the US market. We translate over 5 million words to or from English a year. Other than English-speaking countries, our largest markets by word count are Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands.

Are there particular genres of books that you specialise in and which languages are the most popular in terms of translation at the moment?

 We have worked on a wide range of publications, phrase books, DIY books, children’s books, historical documents, coffee table books, academic publications but maybe the two most sought-after genres are cookery books and guide books, especially museum guides. We also often translate science-related literature. Recently we’ve been involved in a very exciting project for a collection of books on mathematics from Spanish into English. Each issue had a different topic, for example geometry, imaginary numbers, algebra, square roots… And we had just the best, maths-obsessed translator for this project!

Various European languages are amongst our most commonly requested, for example German, French, Dutch, Italian and Spanish account for just over 3 million words per year but we often work with Arabic, Japanese and Chinese, as well. This does not mean that we could not help you with more “exotic” languages, for example, we have translated various publications into Classical Persian, 17th century Italian and a rare African language, Karamojong, too!

If you would like to find out more information about First Edition Translations, please contact them at enquiries@firstedit.co.uk

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