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1. Post-edition at Unbabel
At Unbabel we have a unique approach to translation: each text submitted by a customer is translated by our Machine Translation system, and then corrected by our community of editors in an online platform. By editing the output of the software, the editors ensure the quality of the translations and confirm that the message is accurate (i.e., has the same meaning as the original), fluent (i.e., can be easily understood and sounds natural) and is in line with the style requested by the clients (i.e. respects their register and terminology). In order to help editors do the best job possible, we provide various types of information:
- Customer instructions, which include the identification of the client and his requests to personalize the translation, such as the register that must be used to address the recipient of the message. Following these instructions is vital to deliver translations that match the client’s expectations.
- Glossaries, which correspond to specific vocabulary and expressions used by the client, and that must be respected by the editors.
- Translation Memories, which correspond to stored segments (expressions, sentences or paragraphs) that have previously been translated and accepted for customer usage. They are useful for ensuring consistency across translations.
We also have Smartcheck, which is an application that checks the grammar, morphology, orthography and style of the translations while being edited. By using a large set of rules, Smartcheck flags words or groups of words that may present some kind of issue.
Finally, in order to deliver the best possible translation, we also provide these guidelines about your language specifications. Please, read them carefully and always follow these instructions in your editions.
2.1. Sentence structure
Word order and enclitics
The word order should normally reflect the order of user actions, even if it does not in English. Word order in Serbian is very flexible with the exception of enclitics and the order they must follow. In contrast to generally flexible word order, there exists a fixed order with respect to the use of enclitics, both relative to each other and relative to the other elements in the sentence.
The following rules apply to the use of enclitics:
- An enclitic can never begin a sentence or an independent clause.
- An enclitic can separate the subject if it consists of more than one word, but it can never separate a preposition from the noun it precedes. Nor can it separate a title from a person’s name.
- Enclitics follow interrogatives (где (where), одакле (from where), како (how), чији (whose) etc.) and most conjunctions (да (that), кад (when), ако (if), јер (because) etc.) in the sentence.
In Serbian, all the elements in a sentence need to be in agreement with respect to person, gender and number.
The passive voice is quite frequent in English, but should be avoided in translation as much as possible. The passive form can be used when indicating that something is done regularly, e.g.: Базе података се ажурирају сваког дана.
2.4. Personal pronouns and possessives
Translators should be careful when translating personal pronouns. They are not used as often as in English, because verbs in Serbian already reflect the person. Avoid use of personal pronouns and possessive determiners whenever that does not affect the meaning, especially when it comes to pronoun ви/вас.
However, if you have to use them, use lowercase formal second person plural, because capitalized pronouns as a form of honorific address are redundant.
Source text: Thank you for your cooperation and have a great day!
✘ Хвала вам на вашој сарадњи и пријатан дан!
✓ Хвала вам на сарадњи и пријатан дан!
Correct use of prepositions in translations should be carefully considered. Influenced by the English language, they often get omitted or automatically translated which creates grammatical errors.
Source text: User information.
✘ Информације корисника.
✓ Информације о кориснику.
Source text: If you paid with a debit or credit card, please provide the last four digits on the card.
✘ Ако сте платили са дебитном или кредитном картицом, приложите последње четири цифре с картице.
✓Ако сте платили дебитном или кредитном картицом, приложите последње четири цифре с картице.
Prepositions have no gender or number and do not inflect. They have only one form, with the exception of a few prepositions, such as с and к, which can also take the forms са/ка when they precede words starting with с, з, ш, ж, i.e. к, г, х.
Serbian adjectives, unlike the English ones, have gender and number and it is impossible to localize single adjectives correctly without context. In these cases, when adjectives stand alone, use the neuter adjective in singular, as the most neutral form. For example: ново, непознато, etc.
3.1. Date and time
Dates are written in DD. MM. YYYY format. Non-breaking spaces are required. For example: 22. 12. 2022.
The time format is usually 24 hours, and a full stop is used as a separator, e.g.: 08.00, 17.25
3.2. Units of measurements
Units of measurements and their abbreviations are mostly introduced as per the metric system (in Latin script): V, W, J, C, F, A, T. Others, written in non-capitalized letters are introduced as follows: кг, цм, мм, дл, etc. (and can also be written in Latin script). Only a few are translated:
h or kWh – ч or ч. / с. and квч.
In case the unit of measure is preceded by a number, there should be a non-breaking space between the number and the unit of measure: 35 мм, 8 кг, 5000 л.
The percentage sign is written after the number without a space: 35%.
3.4. Degree sign
The degree sign is written after the number without a space: 90̊, but when referring to temperature, Celsius or Fahrenheit symbols follows with a preceding non-breaking space: 15̊ C, 100̊ F.
3.5. Foreign words
Technical and other terms that have no adequate translation in Serbian are usually transcribed, e.g.: интернет, картриџ, etc. Most of these terms are already adopted in foreign form and used daily. Some of the new and maybe not widely known technical terms should be transcribed with an explanation given in parenthesis.
Client’s preferences should always be followed, but not at the expense of orthography, style and grammar rules that must always be followed.
3.6. Special symbols
A long rising stress (accent) mostly used with кôд (code), so it can be distinguished from код (at).
4.1. How to use punctuation marks
- Comma: is used as a separator in decimal numbers, for example: 3,14 or in measurements: 5,2 кг, 10,2 м, etc.
- Semicolon: can be used in bulleted or numbered list.
Клијентима треба да се пружи следеће:
- редовна обавештења;
- информације о попустима;
- љубазни оператери службе за кориснике.
- Hyphen and N-dash: should not be mistaken and cannot be used interchangeably. Examples of proper use:
N-dash with non-braking spaces around it:
Рестартујте телефон – на тај начин ћете ослободити меморију и унапредити функционалност.
Рат 6. IV – 9. V 1945.
Београд – Нови Сад.
N-dash without spaces around it:
Note: Since the N dash replaces preposition до (to) (for example in: рат 1941–1945), if there is a preposition од (from) in front of it, there must be a preposition до (to) as well. So, it can be:
Рат од 1941. до 1945.
- There is only one pair of proper quotation marks: („”).
- A single quotation mark: (’).
4.2. Punctuation in greetings and closings
After the greeting in an email, the first line should start with a capital letter. For example:
Поштовани г. Петровићу,
Хвала вам на обавештењу.
Добар дан, Александра,
Ваша рекламација је примљена.
5.1. Formal register
In Serbian, “please” should not be translated as it does not have the same connotation as in English. Formal addressing and straightforward phrases are sufficient. It is very important to use the appropriate tone for the audience. Use consistent terminology and style. Consistent syntax enhances comprehension and readers do not have to guess whether different wordings or terms mean the same thing. Avoid personal pronouns as much as possible and use gender neutral forms (masculine or neuter). When addressing is generic, use plural forms
Source text: Dear Madam or Sir,
✘ Поштована госпођо или господине, (this is also a congruency error)
Avoid using forms for both genders. Match the forms of verbs in accordance to person, gender and number of the subject.
Source text: If the recipient is not available, leave a message.
✘ Ако прималац није доступан/на, оставите поруку.
✓ Ако прималац није доступан, оставите поруку.
5.2. Informal register
The informal register is very rare in Serbian business correspondence. It can be used in marketing or in-house communication, but only when specifically instructed. In that case, greetings and closings can be casual (здраво, ћао, etc.) , and the second person singular and first names can be used for addressing people. Nevertheless, slang and informal figures of speech should be avoided.
6. Localization challenges
6.1. Personal names
Personal names should always be transcribed. When mentioned for the first time, a transcribed name should be followed by an original name in parentheses. For example: Мајкл Даглас (Michael Douglas).
Transcription rules to follow can be found in Правопис српскога језика, Матица српска, Нови Сад, and in Нови транскрипциони речник енглеских личних имена, Т. Прћић, Змај, Нови Сад (link below).
6.2. Organizations, brands and products
Names of companies, brands and/or products are usually left in English, unless specified otherwise.
6.3. Acronyms and abbreviations
Technical abbreviations and acronyms should be left in their original form, with a translation and explanation
in parenthesis. Avoid declining the acronyms as much as possible and try to use modifiers.
6.4. Software lexicon and expressions
- For commands, use the active voice and the imperative as these are easier to understand than passive voice constructions.
- When the text speaks directly to users, use the second person plural. For example:
Source text: You are now connected to the Internet.
✓ Повезани сте с интернетом.
Use the second person singular when the text is intended directly to the machine. For example:
Source text: Remember my password.
✓ Запамти моју лозинку.
- Use modifiers when you need to decline a term/product/element that must not be declined.
Source text: Thank you for contacting TomTom.
✘ Хвала што сте контактирали с ТомТом-ом.
✓ Хвала што сте контактирали с компанијом ТомТом.
6.5. Address format
When citing addresses abroad, only the country should be translated.
600 Harrison St 3rd Floor, San Francisco
California, Сједињене Америчке Државе
6.6. Numeric expressions
Numbers with five digits or more should be separated with a full stop for better readability. For example:
7. Tricky cases & Most frequent errors
- Terms like e-mail, tweet, Twitter, Facebook, web-site etc. are English loanwords used in the Serbian language, and they need to be transcribed: имејл/мејл, твит, твитер, фејсбук, веб-сајт. Only when referring to companies Facebook and Twitter, English forms are obtained or transcribed with a capital letter.
- Even though using the verb контактирати with the accusative case (контактирати некога) is a common mistake, this verb only takes the instrumental case (контактирати с неким). Where possible, this verb can be replaced with a synonymous verb обратити се (неком).
- The possessive pronoun свој means ‘one’s own’, and it is used when the object it describes belongs to the subject of the sentence or clause. It must not be confused with ваш (yours).
- It is more accurate and according to the genius of the Serbian language to use “у вези с(а)” instead of “повезано с(а)” or “везано за”.
8. Useful online resources
Computer-related terminology: https://www.mikroknjiga.rs/pub/rmk/
Transcription of English personal names: https://digitalna.ff.uns.ac.rs/sites/default/files/db/books/978-86-6065-497-9_0.pdf
Dictionary of geographical names: https://digitalna.ff.uns.ac.rs/sadrzaj/2019/978-86-6065-498-6
Правопис српскога језика, Матица српска, Нови Сад, 2019
Велики речник страних речи и израза, И. Клајн, М. Шипка, Прометеј, Нови Сад, 2010
Речник језичких недоумица, И. Клајн, Прометеј, Нови Сад, 2009
Граматика српског језика, И. Клајн, Завод за уџбенике и наставна средства, Београд