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Caption translations for scientific, popular and school books

Editorial translators experienced in the drafting and translation of book captions

Traduzione-IN - Traduzioni didascalie

Captions: The backbone of translating a book

Captions are microtexts that have the function of explaining the images in a book. These textual strings must be translated and carefully reported by the editorial translator. Within a book, they can take on an explanatory or informative function regarding the type of illustration they are associated with. The caption is in fact a moment in which the textual work pauses and leads to a visual contribution, which must in any case be supported by a written comment.

The popularizer and the specialized editorial translator must elaborate each caption after having acquired the knowledge and awareness of the entire context of the work. To translate captions it is not enough to quickly read the short notes that accompany each image contribution. Anyone who is really competent in editorial adaptation and translation knows well that the activity must be carried out after a careful reading and based on a deep knowledge of all the implications of the text. Chronologically speaking, it is therefore certainly more professional to carry out the work of translating captions after translating an illustrated book.

The treatment of captions must be carried out by professionals. It is wrong to think that, since these are "only" captions, anyone is able to write 'a few lines' to accompany images in a narrative work: this means underestimating the task of editorial translators.

4 rules on the elaboration and translation of captions for the book industry and the press

The mission of captions are not to provide comprehensive information. Their purpose is to provide the information necessary for the use of the image, avoiding any unnecessary, dispersive and repetitive comment.

  • Proceed with the translation of the captions only after translating all the text to which they belong.

  • Distinguish between the translation of captions for popular works and those for specialized texts. In fact, the latter do not imply the critical communication issues found in the translation of captions aimed at non-specialized readers.

  • Translate captions of informative teaching materials for a mid-level reader. After a careful reading of the outline text, read the caption several times putting yourself in the shoes of the user of the text, trying to understand what needs to be said to understand the image that has been inserted.

  • Take on the role of editorial translator and communicator. Ask yourself if the caption in the source text has effective content. If the caption in the original language is inadequate, it is necessary to re-edit it to obtain a more concise, clear and relevant text.