7 Tips to Become a Better Translator

It’s important to have high expectations if you don’t want to be average at what you do, and being a professional translator demands excellence in and of itself. We hope the following advice helps you on the way to becoming a better translator.

The knowledge of languages is by all means an advantage, both in everyday and professional life. For some people, it’s a result of formal education or life circumstances. For others, it’s a passion, and many among them decide to turn that passion into a career – that of a translator. One of the chief aspects of being a translator is constant learning and self-improvement. Here are several ways how to improve your translation skills.

Read – lots of different stuff

If foreign languages are your thing, you should read a lot. Read as many texts written in different styles as possible to enrich your vocabulary and in turn make your job easier. Read both new and old literary works, as that way you’ll be able to notice how language has progressed and how certain terminology has changed over the years. Don’t just read academic works, lighter readings will help you learn and understand new idioms. You can even build your own glossary to see how many new things you have learned while reading.

See if you notice any errors

When you read something on the Internet, try to grasp whether it sounds natural enough. If you notice and errors, you’re doing ok. That means you’re very good at what you do and that you are able to understand the nuances of the language you have studied. By reading in a critical way, you develop your analytical skills, which are very important in this profession. This will help you observe and correct errors in source texts. Your employer will think of you as a true professional with a good eye for detail.

Prepare to be bored

People who are passionate about languages usually like to read literary works. As we’ve already pointed out, this will help you hone your language skills. However, you have to be prepared for the fact that your favorite author’s new book will probably not the next thing on the menu. Moreover, a large number of professional translators never get to translate fiction or even non-fiction books. You need to be prepared to translate rather “boring” texts like business reports, legal documents, product descriptions etc.

Work on your comprehension and writing skills

A lot of people think that all it takes to be a successful translator is speaking two languages. Naturally, this is completely off the mark. A deep understanding of both languages is crucial, as well as your writing ability in the target language. Practice writing in your mother tongue and your chosen foreign language(s) to master the grammar and style in both directions.

Explore the terminology and style of source texts

Working as translators, we encounter all kinds of texts on various topics. Your task is to faithfully convey the style and jargon of the source text into your translation. Using the appropriate terminology is key, and your sense of language and writing style (you may call this a “translator’s intuition”) determines the extent to which you are able to recognize the method of expression in the source text and translate it into the target language. In addition to various dictionaries and glossaries, the Internet is indispensable when looking for proper terminology. How well you’re able to use this powerful tool for digging up information largely depends on your speed, resourcefulness and diligence.

Read your translations – once more, and then again

By rereading your own translations, you’ll often find typos, mistranslations, or you’ll find better solutions than what you originally came up with. Due to short deadlines or negligence, some translators skip this step, which is a crucial one for ensuring translation quality. In the long run, this is not feasible. Besides, a good translator never thinks he or she has translated everything perfectly. There’s always room for improvement, and deadlines are there to make us reasonable. 

Stick to your deadlines

Whether you’re translating a novel, a marketing brochure or a birth certificate – you’ll probably be required to do it quickly. Aside from the quality of the translation itself, sticking to deadlines shows your level of conscientiousness and professionalism and enables you to build a good relationship with your employers or clients.

All in all, it takes a lot to become a really good translator. Making progress requires lots of work and ambition, you always have to keep up with the latest changes in terminology and technology in various fields and industries. By following these tips, you’ll improve your skills, and your employers and clients will surely recognize that.

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