METM11 presentation     Thread: Promising practices

Translating audio guides for art exhibitions: some practical hints

Joanna Martinez -” L'Ametlla del Vallès, Spain

Background: Audio guides are becoming increasingly widely used by museums and increasingly popular with the public. They provide an easy and agreeable way to learn more about the works of art on display while actually viewing them -“ an audiovisual experience on the move, as it were, where the visitor can choose what to look at and listen to from the selection available.

Purpose: To highlight the differences between translating for the spoken word as opposed to the printed word in an art exhibition context; to outline the translator's requirements and help ensure that these are understood by the client commissioning the translation; to pinpoint additional inputs so that the English version of the audio guide provides an enjoyable, informative experience for the listener and a successful product for the museum.

Content: A brief look at the overall process of producing an audio guide and at the professionals involved; a description of the essential points to be taken into consideration when translating the audio script and how this differs from the translation of catalogue essays and other printed exhibition texts; illustrated examples of why images are essential to the translation process; and some basic principles and practical tips to ensure an optimum result.


Joanna Martinez has been working for over 25 years in Spain as an in-house and freelance translator from Spanish and Catalan, having previously spent several years in the Foreign Office in London and abroad writing information summaries. She has translated books on art and architecture for UK, US and Spanish publishers, as well as numerous exhibition catalogues and audio guides for art museums and galleries. Her other specialist field is Corporate Law.