Metadata Translation And Why You Sometımes Have to Make It Sound “Wrong”

Recently I had an interesting experience after I received a review of my translation by an editor at one of the translation agencies I have been working for for a couple of months. There was nothing wrong with the translation. However, there was a big problem with the edited version of my translation.

I had done some metadata translation from English to Turkish. Metadata basically functions as a way to contribute to the visibility of a product, website, person or a company on search engines.

The text I was translating included a lot of technical terms like “electrical connectors” and “electric connectors.” Let’s suppose the text included a lot of similar word groups like:

  • Turkish translator
  • translate Turkish
  • English Turkish translator
  • translate English Turkish
  • English Turkish translation
  • translation English Turkish

Each word group is slightly different than the others because each user can enter different keywords for the same thing. Let’s assume that our client is a translation agency providing Turkish-English translation and wants to be more visible on search engines.

However, Turkish syntax is different from English syntax. For example, “translate English Turkish” means “to translate from English into Turkish or vice versa” but I had to think again at this point. No customer would want to know about “translating from English into Turkish or vice versa.” Rather, the customer needs a translator or a translation agency that “translates from English into Turkish or vice versa.”

That’s why this word group “translate English Turkish” is not a verb group as it seems. In this context, this word group consists of random keywords that lead to the thing (a translator, a translation agency, translation software, etc.) that is being searched for. However, I had to keep in mind that “translate English Turkish” is different than “English Turkish translation.”

Let’s say each metadata term here represents a different kind of customer. Considering that, I translated “translate English Turkish” as “çevir ingilizce türkçe” and “English Turkish translation” as “ingilizce türkçe çeviri.” I did not use Turkish syntax because both translations would have been the same if I had; they would both be “ingilizce türkçe çeviri.” And this would duplicate the same metadata.

The reviewer in question, however, used the same word group over and over again throughout the translation file. She used “ingilizce türkçe çeviri,” which is gramatically correct in Turkish, for “translate English Turkish,” too. She did not understand that a keyword group got deleted along the way, as she was focused on doing a direct translation. She forgot that some people enter imperfect Turkish keywords into search engines, and that companies might actually want to optimize their keywords around all of these predictable behaviors.

Translation is an extraordinary profession. You must have perfect language skills. However, this is not even close to being enough. You must also have the skills of an actor so you can put yourself in the shoes of your customer, to know what they want.

Are you involved in translating metadata, keywords, tags, and other information for SEO purposes? I’d love to hear your stories too. Please share them below.

About Melıke Uzun

I’m a native Turkish translator living in Turkey. I have a degree in translation from Istanbul University. I have translated 6 novels, but primarily focus on technical, IT, medical, and legal texts.