6 resources every translator should use

Contrary to what some may think, not all translators sit alone in a dark room, typing furiously, using only a dusty old dictionary for reference. Translation has moved on!

It is more than just one opinion, one draft, one dog-eared dictionary. Translators, like lawyers, refer to myriad sources to select the best terminology, cite examples of similar contexts, delve into background information, and so on.

Six resources you should be using

Your Internet Browser

Everyone has their favourite web browser – learn how to use yours to its fullest, as you probably use it regularly. In Internet Explorer, install the Google Toolbar to find things faster. If you use Chrome, you will already have these features, so personalise your Chrome browser by installing web apps, themes and extensions. For Firefoxers, check out this list of 10 Firefox extensions (aka software add-ons designed for Mozilla Firefox-based web browsers) collated by Fabio Said.

Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, Google+

Many translators are active in social networks – this gives them access to peer support and advice as well as providing a platform for contacting new potential clients. Some translators enjoy the opportunity to interact and chat with other people in what can otherwise be an isolating and solitary line of work.

Top Tip: If you’re concerned about being distracted from work by the internet and Social Media, then pick and choose the activities and sites you think you will get the most out of, and set yourself regular times to check these and interact with people.

A Website/Professional Online Profile

Sending translation companies your CV in the post is costly, and many will file it immediately in the nice blue bin along with the other unsolicited post. Sending your CV by email is cheaper, but agencies receive hundreds of CVs every week, so you will be lucky to receive a response. The majority of a translation compan’s work is very specialised, so agencies may seek out translators with specific areas of expertise in advance of upcoming projects or winning new clients. For agencies to find you, a good website or professional online profile with plenty of detail is a good idea. It is also easy to include a link to your profile or site on a business card, in your email footer or on your social media profiles.

Guidelines, Glossaries and the Client’s Website

Larger companies often have brand guidelines and glossaries to help all their communications to be consistent. There are also industry-specific glossaries that can prove invaluable to translators – many of which have been compiled by translators and can be accessed free online. Also, referring to a company’s website – no matter what you are translating for them – will help you to understand their ethos, writing style and products. You can then adapt your translation to better suit a particular company or client.

Online Dictionaries and Forums

One of the beautiful things about language is it’s constantly evolving – this unfortunately also makes it really challenging for any linguist to keep on top of! Online dictionaries make it really quick and easy to check meaning, context and current usage without stepping away from the computer, and they are certainly cheaper than buying new dictionaries. Translation communities and forums can also help translators to decipher oddly worded passages, advise on the best translation for a particular term, or offer practical support and tips for dealing with tricky CAT tools.

CAT tools

It seems obvious, but many translators don’t use them. Yes, some of them are expensive, or complicated, or your clients might not insist upon them. However, CAT tools can save you time, and time is money! CAT tools help you to build your own translation memory, which can save you loads of time if you translate similar texts. Good CAT tools will allow you to use more than one TM, so you can always have your own running as a reference TM. In addition to helping you translate repetitive texts efficiently, there are a host of other benefits. For example, if you want to translate any file with code in it, unless you have a good understanding of the source code, then you do need to use a CAT tool to protect the code and show you the parts that need to be translated. CAT tools can help with QA, with terminology, with planning, and with so much more.

These days translators have to be researchers, writers, editors, and Social Media gurus all rolled into one!

If you’re a translator, let us know what other resources you can’t do without.