Russian translation

Practical ways to obtain a better English to Russian translation.

I frequently need translations in many different foreign languages both on surface languages and other websites. This has given me a lot of experience in both obtaining translations and working with translators.

Recently, I added a large number of Russian sentences to Surface languages, which needed to be translated from English into Russian.

As my memory of doing this is fresh I thought I'd give you some pointers on English/Russian translation, and how to get the best translation possible, based on this experience.

Before reading further if you have never instructed and worked a translator before, I'd recommend that you'read this general guide first.

It will show you how to find and choose a translator appropriate for your particular needs.

Obtaining an English to Russian translation is just like obtaining any other translation, except there are some additional points to remember because of complexities with the Russian language.

You don't need to become an expert in Russian or other slavic languages to do this. I'm not, but some background knowledge will help prevent misunderstandings.

1. Formal or informal?

Russian is translated differently depending on whether or not you are using the formal or informal registers. The informal register used to speak to friends or family members. The distinction is similar to the French tu/vous or Spanish tu/usted.

It is an inflected language, meaning that the endings of words change depending on (among other things) who is talking to who, and the level of formality required.

So, if you are a French speaker, think of the 'tu' and 'vous' distinction but multipled by a factor of 100.

The style of translation needed for any text in any language will always be dependent on on your audience. Obvious examples, are the difference in style required for a serious news article, compared to selling childrens toys. But this is even more important with an inflected language like Russian.

So, you must know your audience, and more importantly be able to tell your translator who your audience will be.

The extra information might be unnecessary, but by specifying your background requirements more precisley, you are giving a translator more to work with.

This is illustrated more thoroughly in the example below, for the sentences that I had translated into Russian for Surfacelanguages.

2. Man or woman?

Is your translated text speaking directly towards a man or woman or more generally to a mixed group of people?

For example, the translation of 'where were you born' is 'Где ты родился?' in Russian, when spoken to a man, but 'Где ты родилась?' when said to a woman.

For the sentences on Surface languages, I wanted both versions, and I knew that there was a difference.

Again, this information will not always be necessary as it may be obvious from the context of the text that you are having translated. It wasn't in the example above, and I had to ask for it to be done.

But I'm not a Russian speaker, and I don't know what will be necessary for the translator to be able to produce a good translation. I'm trying to give the translator what they need, so that they don't need to guess.

3. How many people?

Is your text, letter, website directed to one person, or a group of people? A Russian sentence can be different depending on whom is being addressed.

Again this information will not always be required, but your translator might need it.

A real example of the above

The extra information above can be important, and to show that it is, I've added some snippets of correspondence with my Rusian translator (who was extremely good).

As I mentioned above, I had these Russian sentences translated recently and wrote to my translator as follows:-

My requirements for the translation are these:-

I would like the sentences translated using the informal register as if talking to one person. I would like the format to be English. Russian (Cyrillic) Transliteration (romanised version).

Hello Здравствуйте Zdravstvuĭte

If there is a difference between the way a sentence is spoken by a man or woman I'd like both versions.

My translator replied explaining that in Russian there are singular and plural versions of the English word 'you'.

The singular is used to address people know well (friends, relative), younger and so on, and which version of you that she should use 'singular or plural'.

I replied that I wanted her to use ты which is the familiar form to one person. (I don't speak Russian, but know a few words through having translations done and a general interest in languages.)

If you look at these sentences, you can see that even with these simple examples there can be a difference between talking to a man or woman in Russian.

To get the best Russian translation:

Remember that Russian is very different from English, and so communicate with your translator clearly and using unambiguous language. Help them to help you.

Think about the style of translation needed, and be very specific about the target audience, and the style of writing that you require. If you merely write 'I want this translated into Russian', without additional information, you are making the translators work more difficult.

Read this guide to learn how to find the right translator for your particular job.