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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.
2.1.1. Gender and number (nouns and adjectives)
Nouns are inflected for masculine, feminine and neuter gender, and singular and plural number. The adjective must agree with co-referential nouns in gender and number.
Source text: The deep lake
✘ Den dyp innsjøen
✓ Den dype innsjøen
2.1.2. Case (nouns and prepositions)
Apart from a limited number of dative expressions (e.g. til havs, til fjells), only pronouns overtly inflect for case in Norwegian Bokmål (see Section 4 below). Case does not need to be considered for nouns and prepositions.
Definiteness may be marked on Norwegian noun phrases by means of clitics and determiners preceding the noun. In present day Bokmål, only expressions where the noun is modified by an adjective, numeral or other nominal modifier have both, otherwise the noun occurs with only the clitic. Determiners precede the nouns and its modifier. Even though expressions continuing a noun and an adjective that do have a determiner but no definite clitic are not, strictly speaking, incorrect, they are not recommended. Determiners agree with the gender and number of the noun. The forms are conflated for masculine and feminine gender (both ‘den’), whereas there is a separate form for neuter (‘det’).
Source text: The red door
✘ Røde døren
✓ Den røde døren
(✓) Den røde dør
Source text: The door
✘ Den døren
Noun phrases that consist of a nominal modifier and no overt noun, also take a determiner.
Source text: The red
✓ Den røde
All adpositions in Norwegian are prepositions, and they may combine with other word classes in compounds. The only difficulty with the use of prepositions in Norwegian may be to choose the correct one. There are many prepositions to choose between, the rules can be complex, and it is not unusual that more than one preposition can be used. The Language Council of Norway provides a helpful list, complete with examples.
Norwegian pronouns inflect for case, person, gender, and number. Confusing nominative and accusative pronoun forms is a common mistake.
Source text: She showed it to him
✘ Hun viste den til han
✓ Hun viste det til ham
A form of the 1st person singular pronoun, seg, (that conflates genders), enables differentiation of actions done to oneself and actions done to another person. For instance, Han vasket seg vs. Han vasket ham translates He washed himself vs. He washed him, respectively.
Norwegian verbs are not inflected for person, gender and number (it differs from English in the latter aspect). Where –ing verbs are used as gerunds He likes reading books and present participles I saw him reading a book earlier today in English, they are translated by means of infinitives (or subordinate clauses) in Norwegian.
Source text: He likes reading books
✘ Han liker lesing av bøker
✓ Han liker å lese bøker
Source text: I saw him reading a book earlier today
✘ Jeg så ham lesende en bok tidligere idag
✓ Jeg så ham lese en bok tidligere idag
The use of two temporal adverbs når and da are often confused in Norwegian Bokmål. Da is used in expressions denoting past events or states if it only happened once, whereas når is used in expressions denoting events or states that either happens now, will happen in the future,happens repeatedly or happened several times in the past
Source text: We were lucky with the weather when we went skiing last weekend.
✘ Vi var heldige med været når vi sto på ski sist helg.
✓ Vi var heldige med været da vi sto på ski sist helg.
Source text: They used to sing when they went skiing.
✘ De pleide å synge da de var på skitur.
✓ De pleide å synge når de var på skitur.
Most abbreviations in Norwegian are not capitalized, but many are followed by a punctuation mark. However, there are exceptions. The Language Council of Norway’s comprehensive list is recommended when coming across an abbreviation one is not familiar with. Among the abbreviations that are not followed by a punctuation mark, are those of measurement expressions.
Source text: 1500 cal
✘ 1500 cal.
✓ 1500 cal
Apostrophes are hardly used in Norwegian. Genitive s clitics should not be preceded or followed by apostrophes.
Source text: Nora’s hus
✘ Nora’s hus
✓ Noras hus
A number of words that are capitalized in English are not in Norwegian. That includes words other than the initial in headings, names of languages, and expressions referring to nationalities or ethnicities. Proper nouns referring to persons and places are capitalized.
Source text: Some Belgians’ mother tongue is Dutch
✘ Noen Belgieres morsmål er Nederlandsk
✓ Noen belgieres morsmål er nederlandsk
Norwegian is a heavily compounding language and compounding is productive. There is no limit as to how many words may be compounded (apart from the strain of writing or pronouncing them for the speaker). Compounded words may not be spelled as separate words but are juxtaposed either without any elements intervening between them, or linked by a hyphen or a binding morpheme. Compounds containing foreign words, letter sequences or numbers are always hyphenated.
Source text: 3 days mountainbike race
✘ 3 dagers terrengsykkeritt
✓ 3-dagers terrengsykkelritt
The presence of and choice of binding morphemes, on the other hand, is less straightforward. It is lexically conditioned, rather than rule-based, and it is recommended to look up the compound to see what the conventional spelling is. In some cases, the same compound may be frequently used both with and without a binding morpheme.
Source text: The science book
✘ Naturfag boka
Loan words with diacritics tend to keep their diacritics in Norwegian. In addition, a handful of Norwegian words have them, such as fôr, én, etc.
Source text: Munich is the capital of the German state of Bavaria.
✘ Munchen er hovedstaden i den tyske delstaten Bayern.
✓ München er hovedstaden i den tyske delstaten Bayern.
3.6. Foreign words
Foreign words tend to keep their spelling when used in Norwegian. Words from languages that use other alphabets than the Latin are transliterated.
Regarding numerals format (written in numbers or words), you must always respect the source text: if they are written as digits in the source text, this should be maintained in the translation; on the other hand, if they are written as words, they should be translated in the target language.
Norwegian has two numeral systems, one where complex numerals consist of juxtaposed numeral forms and another where they are compounded. The latter form is the most frequent one, and is recommended. A common mistake is to spell compounded numerals as separate words.
Source text: forty two
✘ førti to
(✓) to og førti
Groups of thousands are separated by a punctuation mark (in this respect, Norwegian differs from English that uses a comma).
Source text: 100,000
(✓) 100 000
Whereas English uses a period to indicate decimals, Norwegian uses a comma.
Source text: The price is 2.50 NOK
✘ Prisen er 2.50 NOK
✓ Prisen er 2,50 NOK
It is recommended to always check what the correct Norwegian numeral expression is. Whereas many expressions are similar to English, there are some false friends, as exemplified below.
Source text: 3 billions
✘ 3 billioner
✓ 3 milliarder
Source text: 1 trillion
✘ 1 trillion
✓ 1 billion
A full white space is used between a number and the percent sign in Norwegian (which differs from English, where no space or a small space is used).
Source text: 5%
✓ 5 %
Hyphens are not preceded or followed by white spaces, except when one or more of the expressions on either side of the hyphen consist of multiple words.
Source text: English/French
✘ engelsk / fransk
Source text: British English/American English
✘ britisk engelsk/amerikansk engelsk
✓ britisk engelsk / amerikansk engelsk
4.1. How to use punctuation marks
As in English, commas, punctuation marks, question marks, colons, semicolons, exclamation marks have no space preceding them but are always followed by a space.
Source text: Dancing is silent poetry.
✘ Dans er stille poesi .
✓ Dans er stille poesi.
Bracketed expressions are preceded and followed by a space.
Source text: Both round (also called "parentheses") and square brackets are common.
✘ Både runde ( også kalt «parenteser» ) og firkantede klammer er vanlige.
✓ Både runde (også kalt «parenteser») og firkantede klammer er vanlige.
Short hyphens are not preceded or followed by a space, but ndashes are, if used to denote a break or parenthetical statement in a sentence. Mdashes are not used in Norwegian.
Source text: Return ticket
✘ Tur – retur-billett
Source text: Ingrid – who has recently retired – was planning a trip to Algeria
✘ Ingrid–som akkurat hadde gått av med pensjon – planla en tur til Algerie
✓ Ingrid – som akkurat hadde gått av med pensjon – planla en tur til Algerie
Norwegian uses guillemets for quotation marks (and thus differ from English in this respect).
Source text: “quote”
4.2. Punctuation in greetings and closings
Norwegian conventions differ from English, as greetings are not followed by a comma. For instance, one may write Hei, Hei. (or Hei!), but not Hei,. In greetings such as Hei and Hallo followed by the name of the recipient, a comma is inserted between Hei and the name of the recipient, Hei, Olav.
Source text: Dear Ragnhild,
✘ Kjære Ragnhild,
✓ Kjære Ragnhild
(✓) Kjære Ragnhild.
(✓) Kjære Ragnhild!
Source text: Best regards,
✘ Vennlig hilsen,
✓ Vennlig hilsen
5.1. Grammatical and Lexical Registers
Register refers to the level of formality used in the text. It shows how our clients address their customers and contributes to the voice of the brand itself. Register may vary depending on the company, the brand, the service they offer, the customers, and the target language.
We make a first main distinction between grammatical and lexical register: the first one regards the use of pronouns and verb person (for the languages to which this morphological feature is applied), while the latter is related to lexical choices, since some words and expressions also have a degree of formality or colloquialism.
Both these registers are also divided into formal and informal, as shown below.
5.1.1. Formal Register
Norwegian does have a formal 3rd person singular pronoun paradigm, but this is not in use, and not recommended to include in translations. Some conventional greetings and closings in formal correspondence are listed below. For more information, The Language Council of Norway’s guidelines for writing formal emails are recommended.
Type of Register
Med vennlig hilsen
Titles such as “Mr”, “Mrs” and “Miss” have almost gone out of use in Norwegian, and should be avoided in greetings. If we know the first and last name, we should use both names in formal emails.
However, Norwegian’s would normally not find it offensive to be greeted by their first name only. If we only know the surname, it is best to avoid using names altogether. In these cases, it is recommended to refer to the person as “customer”.
Source text: Dear Mrs Mona Hansen
✘ Kjære Hansen
✘ Kjære fru Hansen
✓ Kjære Mona Hansen
(✓) Kjære Mona
Source text: Dear Mrs Hansen
✘ Kjære Hansen
✘ Kjære fru Hansen
✓ Kjære kunde
5.1.2. Informal Register
Not much differentiation is made between formal and informal letters and emails in Norwegian. However, very personal or colloquial greetings, such as the ones listed below, should be reserved for informal correspondence.
Type of Register
Hallo i luka
Hei og hopp
Hei. / Hei!
Hallo. / Hallo!
Kyss og klem
If you know the first name, it is nice to include this, but if you only know the last name, it is best to leave the names out altogether. It is also fine to use both names, although only the first name is more common in informal emails.
Source text: Hello Mona Hansen,
✘ Hei, Hansen
✓ Hei, Mona
(✓) Hei, Mona Hansen
✓ Hallo, Mona
(✓) Hallo, Mona Hansen
6. Localization challenges
6.1. Proper nouns
Proper nouns refer to unique entities, such as persons, places, organizations, brands, events, etc. As foreign proper nouns are concerned, languages may adopt different rules regarding whether they should be translated or kept in the original language. When editing a text, you should follow your languages rules for all different types of proper nouns listed below. However, please note that if there is a glossary provided by the client that includes these types of units, you should always apply the glossary items.
Names of persons are always left untranslated. If the name is in an alphabet other than the Latin one, it is transliterated.
Place names are left untranslated only if no official Norwegian version of the name exists. If the name is in an alphabet other than the Latin one, it is transliterated.
Source text: Gothenburg
Names of organizations and institutions (e.g. University of Birmingham) often have a Norwegian official name.
Source text: Médecins Sans Frontières
✘ Médecins Sans Frontières
✓ Leger uten grenser
If no official Norwegian name exists, on the other hand, they are left untranslated.
Source text: Amnesty International
✘ Internasjonalt amnesti
✓ Amnesty International
Names of Universities are often (but need not be) translated.
Source text (Italian): Università degli Studi di Milano
✓ Universitetet i Milano
6.1.4. Brands and products
Names of brands (e.g. Sony) and their products (e.g. PlayStation) are kept untranslated, and Norwegian names are only used if the product is launched with an official localized name.
6.1.5. Other entities
Entities such as art (paintings), events (festivals, theatre plays, etc.), names of boats (e.g. Titanic), etc. may be translated or they may not. It is recommended to consult online resources to check what expression is most commonly used to refer to the entity in question. Where a theatre play or novel, for instance, has an established Norwegian name, it should be used.
6.2. Acronyms and initials
It is recommended to keep the acronym in the source language unless there is a standardized Norwegian equivalent. One such case would be standard ways of referring to members of a royal family, in which case the Norwegian conventions should always be used. The conventions are listed here.
6.3. Date format
Norwegian dates are formatted as follows: (X)X. (X)X. (XX)XX. The month can also be represented by the name of the month spelled out (without a following punctuation mark) or an abbreviation of the name of the month (followed by a punctuation mark). The standard abbreviation for month names are the two initial letters of the name, uncapitalized.
Source text: 24/12/2018
✓ 24. 12. 2018
✓ 24. desember 2018
✓ 24. de. 2018
6.4. Time format
Norwegian uses a 24-hour time format, where hours, minutes, and seconds (if indicated) are separated by a punctuation mark. The term klokka or klokken (o’clock) is added more frequently than in English.
Source text: 6:15 pm
✓ kl. 18.15
✓ klokka 18.15
Measures should always keep the format of the source text and should never be converted. You should only translate them when they have an equivalent term in your language.
Where measurement terms in Norwegian differ from the source language, they should be translated, otherwise not. Note that abbreviations should be kept (e.g. 2 ft, 20 cm).
Source text: 10 centimetres
✘ 10 centimetres
✓ 10 centimeter
Currency values should be left as they are in the source text, only translating the currency: for example, 100 krone (EN) → 100 kroner (NO). It is worth noting that the singular and plural form for euro and dollar are identical in Norwegian.
Source text: 100 dollars
✘ 100 dollars
✓ 100 dollar
Currency symbols either precede or follow the number they modify, with a space between the number and the currency symbol.
Source text: $100
✓ $ 100
✓ 100 $
Source text: 100¢
✓ 100 ¢
✓ ¢ 100
International iso-codes for currencies (USD, GBP, RUB, INR, DKK, NOK, etc.) may also precede or follow the number they modify, with a space between the number and the code.
7. Most frequent errors
The most common error in translation editions has by far been overlooking or producing direct translations, resulting in phrase structures that make no sense, and in the worst cases are ungrammatical and contain non-existent words. Other frequent errors include failure to localise time expressions and format of greetings. Compounds spelled as separate words is another common error. All these are discussed above.
8. Useful online resources
The Language Council of Norway’s grammar and spelling guide
English verb conjugator
English grammar guide
Norwegian Bokmål and Nynorsk dictionary: