The ability to research during translation is probably one of the most important factors in any translator’s job. Good translation research is what is behing good translation. How does a translator become an expert legal translator without being a lawyer, or a technical translator without actually being an engineer?
Well, it is possible that lawyers become translators and it is also the case that engineers become translators, but most of the translators in the world study translation in general and then take measures to become specialists in certain fields of translation. A translator’s ability to research a specific topic in order to perform a good translation is crucial for the quality level of a translation. There is lot more involved with translation than just having a great dictionary. You have to understand what you are translating for it to be good.
A long time ago, translators had to spend hours in the library researching specific technical or linguistic terms. With information online at our fingertips, it has made this a much easier task. There are not only advanced dictionaries and online encyclopedias, but search engines, online patent texts, manuals, etc that are offered online for free.
If a translator wants to translate a legal document for example, he/she may go online and download a lot of similar contracts in English and read them to become familiar with them, try to understand them. . The same can be done if a translator wants to specialize in a technical field. Just instead of looking at legal documents, user manuals might be a better source of information. In addition, there are various platforms that offer courses on the subject matter in various fields. Reading existing translations done by professionals is also a very effective way of improving your translation skills. Many industrial translators do not do this actively, but actually do look at very large translation memories on a continuous basis, thereby passively improving their knowledge and skills.
Cross referencing words and phrases in search engines is another way of researching. Despite a great deal of experience, translators are often faced with a term or phrase that they have never translated before. If a word or phrase is “invented” by the translators, cross references can be made on Internet search engine in order to find out if that term or phrase has been used in that context before. Text in many fields is usually regurgitated may times. This has to do with the human tendency of reusing text. Chances are, if you cannot find a certain term or phrase in the Internet, it does not exist and may be necessary to continue researching the term or phrase until the correct one has been found.
If there is a terms that is completely eluding, sometimes, the very simple means of making and phone call and asking a professional in the field is often neglected. If there is a specific technical term, for example, why not just call someone that you know who is a technician and ask what that word is or further explain the subject matter so the correct work or phrase can be found. Subject matter experts are a great resource if they are available. In many cases, within the scope of a translation project, this is the customer himself.
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