Russian to English Translation

People are constantly changing, so naturally, language and culture are dynamic. As new concepts and ideas enter a culture, they turn into new words and expressions. When working on a Russian to English translation project, I search for the underlying meaning, because that is where I find the ideal interpretation. I analyze a text from the perspective of the original culture, since language and culture go hand-in-hand. This principle applies when translating any document, presentation, website, book, or video.

Machine translation (MT), such as Google Translate, has gained popularity for obvious reasons: it is a quick, user-friendly reference. Machine translation is simply that: a reference that language learners can use to translate. In other words, it is best to use MT like a Wiki, because many people can contribute to it and it only gives a general idea of the word or phrase’s meaning. Also, MT often provides several translated versions, which may or may not be accurate–it just depends on the context. I often use computer-assisted translation software (CAT tool), because I can translate special terminology more consistently across large documents that have a lot of repetitive phrases.

In my opinion, a CAT tool should not replace the work of a translator. Besides the obvious, the translator’s job is to ask the right questions and do thorough research. My main research tools are online, although I own some paper dictionaries and reference books. I only use a few online tools for researching my translation topics. These tools may seem basic, but they are very effective. Wiki pages are a great reference, as well as multi-language dictionary websites, and searching for terminology using the major search engines.

I have also found monolingual (regular) dictionaries helpful when I have come across words in Russian that sound like English counterparts. It is not uncommon to find false friends in a Russian to English translation. I verify that the words really are equivalents whenever I am unsure. First, I look up the meaning in a Russian dictionary. Then I compare it to the meaning in an English dictionary.

When requested, I can use a client’s terminology glossary, as long as it is grammatically correct. I also use my own glossaries that I have developed over the years.


Essentially, a translator should be an excellent writer in his or her native language and specialty fields. If asked, a professional writer would most likely confess that composing a quality text is not a quick task. Although the microwave mentality is quite popular today, it is an ineffective approach to translation when quality takes priority over the deadline.

I have seen how important proofreading is to composing a high-quality translation. The first linguist may have omitted an important word, or may not have rendered a concept into English as clearly as possible. Such errors might go unnoticed by a stylistic editor. Many times an editor may not have any knowledge of the language a text was translated from. As a result, an editor may only be given the translation.

As a proofreader, I have learned that less is more. I ask myself these questions when judging another translator’s work: Does this translation meet the client’s needs? If not, can this translation be improved without drastically altering it? And finally, are the suggested changes really necessary to convey the meaning of the original work, or are they stylistic?

Some changes to a translation may be acceptable, but in many cases, they are stylistic. In other words, stylistic changes should be suggested by a copyeditor. To obtain a high-quality translation, a text should be sent to a qualified editor who will judge if the tone and voice of the translation match the intended audience. This is usually the final step in the translation process when quality really matters.

English Copyediting

Clarity is my main goal when I write, translate, and edit. I regularly refer to various style guides to cultivate clarity in a text. My favorite style guide is the classic by Strunk and White, The Elements of Style (Fourth Edition). This little book provides timeless principles for any writer to pen an understandable, strong text in English.

The MLA Handbook is my second favorite style guide. This slim handbook is simple to understand and organized logically. There are occasions when a text requires more precision. In such cases, a client’s in-house style guide may be more appropriate. I am comfortable familiarizing myself with an in-house style guide prior to applying it to a text.

I strive to keep my editing workflow simple, so I use Track Changes in MS Word to edit text documents. This helpful function displays the changes made and any comments containing suggestions for improvement. Track Changes makes it easy to accept or reject edits in the original file—there is no need to Save As another file name.

Any graphic designer or desktop publishing specialist might confess that text composing programs, such as MS Word, are not an ideal way to create documents that have large graphic images or a complex layout. Try making these documents in a program such as Adobe InDesign, or another comparable DTP software.

Once a graphic designer or DTP specialist converts the document to a PDF file, I can then edit the text. The latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader makes it easy to highlight text and make comments. A client can easily see the changes in the PDF, approve or delete them, save the file, and forward it to the graphic designer to update the source document.