Translating sustainability: what to expect from your freelance translator

translator sustainability

Just like any other fast-paced, global technological field, the vocabulary linked to sustainability is an ever-moving goal post. To accurately translate texts abouts sustainability and precisely transfer terminology, your translator will need more than linguistic skills.

In a sustainability environment, your freelance translator should have the skills to meet the following challenges :

Understanding the international sustainability market

To tackle the many challenges of translating web pages, white papers, fact sheet or policies linked to sustainable business and development, your translator will need an excellent understanding of the stakeholders involved. As an example, an English to French translator with knowledge of the sustainability market will know that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is actually the Groupe d'experts intergouvernemental sur l'évolution du climat (GIEC), or that the Carbon Disclosure Project is generally referred to in English. Your linguist will need an insight in the evolution of global motivation and in the technological progress, which is mostly obtained through experience of translating similar material or through working for a sustainability company.

Knowing the local market

Not all countries have taken the same approach to sustainability. Legislations may be designed differently, and international agreements interpreted in various ways. A good freelance translator will have experience of how to localise your documents in order to adapt the information and objectives they contain to local variations.

Translating the technical terms

From its most technical concepts to its latest political trends, sustainability is riddled with precise and complex terms which cannot bear mistranslations. In order to achieve a local text that you will feel confident in presenting to a highly educated audience, you must trust in your translator’s ability to put in as much research as required (a personal interest in the field always helps) and to understand the acronyms, concepts and objectives linked to sustainable development and climate change.

Working closely with you

Because sustainability is still in its infancy, it is common to work with trend setters: companies leading the way in terms of innovation, guidelines and methodologies. This may involve translating recently developed or even completely new terminologies, or adapting concepts to a new context. Ongoing communication with the client as well as experience in glossary management and translation memories is essential to ensure consistency.

Conveying the tone

Finally, more than in any other sector, the translator will need to adopt a style and tone of voice to inspire decision-makers. They will need to know how and when to sound trustworthy, optimistic or factual. They will need to choose a vocabulary that offers balance between economic considerations and climate urgency. In short, they will need to be both passionate and knowledgeable about climate change and sustainable development.


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