Start Translating (Chinese Novels) : Part 2 – The Novel Translations Survival Kit


This article was adapted by AmeryEdge based on GoodGuyPerson’s original post on reddit.


Now that you have decided on a series to translate, you can simply just start by finding the raw chapters, paste them into a word editing software and translate away. However, the quality and efficiency of the translations you produce hinges on much more than simply retyping sentences into English. The following are some indispensable tools in your survival kits while translating.

1. Editors

First and foremost, find yourself an editor. Editors differs from proofreaders in that they carry a much larger responsibility. A good one will fix your grammar and spelling errors when they see them, but they should be focusing on reworking your sentences to improve flow and clarity as well as readability. The quality of your editors directly corresponds to the quality of your translation.

How much freedom and power your editors will need to exercise while working on your translations will varies from group to group and translator to translator. There is no glove that will fit all, and not every editor and their methods will be compatible with you. That is why it is essential to find someone you can get along with and have frank discussions with about the work that you both do.

2. Proofreaders

When starting out, it can be incredibly hard to find a reliable editor. That’s why if you can, at least find yourself a proofreader. Great proofreaders will do minor adjustments of your sentences for better flow while proofing, but their main job will be to track down and fix the wide variety of mistakes one can make regarding to grammar, spelling, punctuation and even the minute difference between the different kind of English that exists (UK EN > US EN > AU EN, etc.)

There are many softwares and machines available to help you do basic proofreading. Most of the time your chosen word editing software would already include such a function, but if you are not familiar enough with the language and follow those auto corrections perfectly, you might end up with an even less compelling read due to the fact that the majority of software cannot take in account the context of the current novel chapters and how certain compromises will need to be made when translating from Chinese to English.

3. Glossary/Translation Sheet

While translating, it would be ideal to set up a Glossary/Translation Sheet and refer to it while you work. Having a list of all terms and names will help you tremendously down the line and save you countless hours of backtracking to find out how you previously solved the linguistics puzzles that is Traditional Chinese terms in English. Here you can also write down notes and variations of certain terms that might need to be changed before publishing. It will improve your work-flow by leaps and bounds.

4. Translate alongside raws

While translating, it might tempting to simply have the two documents side by side, one in raws and one in English. This is however, a terrible idea. It is generally agreed upon that the method of alternating between Raws and English in a single document would be much better, for various reasons.

To quote Goodguyperson verbatim


The pretty girl’s complexion was black, but once she clearly saw Liu Ming in front of her, she couldn’t help but involuntarily cry out.


“It really is me. Junior Jia Lan, are you okay?” Liu Ming bitterly laughed.

Spot the error? Yup, the complexion of Jia Lan should be translated to “Abnormally White” but I accidentally translated it to “Black”. If you didn’t have the raws, you might have thought that that was the right translation when you were going over the translation. Translating in this fashion makes it really easy to spot errors and also go over terms.

So in the comparison, this is going to be your “crumbs trail” or map to backtrack. Without it, you might get lost and spend more time trying to get back and find where you need to be (your error).

5. Dictionaries

Unless you ARE a walking dictionary, you’re going to need help from them while translating. Not just the typical Oxford dictionary of English words, but all different kinds.

  • Thesaurus
  • Simplified Chinese to Traditional Chinese
  • and vice versa
  • Traditional Chinese to English
  • and vice versa
  • Chinsese Idioms and Sayings
  • Specialised Dictionaries of certain topics that relates to your novel ( Astronomy, Medieval, Anatomy, etc.)

And much more. There are many websites and softwares that can  help you with this, and we will go in depth to them in later issues, but when starting out make sure to at least bookmark Wikipedia, and

6. Other translators

Nothing is more helpful than having access to people who have more experience than you and who are willing to help. Get around, talk to people on forums and offer your own help where you can. It will make you happier and much more motivated to continue translating. Draw help when you need them, ask people who might have much better expertise about a certain subject because they have previously worked on a similar project, or anything in between.

6. Checkers

Last, but not least, are Translation Checkers. This will initially be your job, and might always be your job, but it is ideal to have someone else who has a strong native raws understanding with a proficient grasp on english to run over your translation one last time before publishing. There are certain things you will always be blindsided by due to the fact that it was you who translated the piece. Sometimes the editing process would have accidentally altered the content significantly enough that you need Checkers to keep a reign on your accuracy.

This survival kit is only sufficient for a relatively specific group of translators. If you are a Machine Translator or you translate using multiple languages, your own survival kit will naturally be different, with different priorities and tools. Adapt this to your own working style and have fun translating. We will be focusing on various of these points in later issues of the magazine.

Now that you have started on your translation project, and has translated a few chapters, where do you publish them? Read on to our next guide. [Part 3 – Publishing your Translations]

This article was originally published in Edgenotes: The Novel Translations Magazine Issue #1.




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