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Practical steps for the translation of documents

A translation is the resulting product of a series of processes: it is not just a simple transfer of information from one language to another, and that is what makes it (at present) an impossible for any machine to perform a perfect translation.

To get a quality translation in your target language, it is very useful to follow a system. Therefore, it can be very useful to follow a well-structured methodology.


Before starting to translate

The process of making a translation does not focus only on the translation itself. It is a very broad process in which the pre and post translation phases are crucial. To get an idea of ​​the task that lies before us, it might be useful to point out some key points and questions that we should ask before starting any translation work.

Admit the reality that there is no "perfect" translation. Ask yourself, how much time do you have to finish the translation? What is the text about? Do you know the subject? Who is the translation for? Who will read it?

Many translators live immersed in the search for perfection. Although being a perfectionist is sometimes an admirable quality, it is inevitable that we will never feel fully satisfied. In fact, a perfectionist mindset can disturb us in a very undesirable way in the world of translation, since the "perfect" translation is practically non-existent. Once the translator accepts this fact he will be able to translate much faster and with much more fluency.

The term for a translation

Like everyone else, translators also have to work within deadlines, because otherwise, we will tend to extend the execution to infinity. The fact that you are able to deliver the translation within the agreed time will depend on several factors:

Other orders: All translators should keep a detailed record of all the orders they are carrying out at the time, along with a record of the respective deadlines.

Other commitments: Translators are, logically, people with family commitments and other responsibilities. Make sure you keep in mind your other commitments when you make your work plan.

Your translation speed: As a translator, it is important to know yourself and know your limitations; translators with experience can translate between 2500 and 3000 words per day, but each one works at their own pace and inexperienced translators can only get 300 words per hour. And, although speed is not the goal of translation, being fast is very useful to calculate how long it will take you to complete an assignment and to know if you will be able to do it.

Familiarity and specialization: Being familiar with a specific field and your specialization in it will have a great impact on your speed of translation. Specialize in specific fields, such as medicine or law, and it will be easier to understand technical texts. When you understand these, your translation speed will increase.

Tools at your disposal: Create and use glossaries of specialized terms. In the past, specialized translators had to compile their own lists of words and technical terms, with all the effort involved. However, nowadays thanks to the Internet we can share our own glossaries and download those shared by others. Glossaries are the perfect complement to computer-aided translation tools, such as Trados or Across. Although it is true that to begin with, Trados or Across can be expensive translation tools.

At the beginning, it is worth getting used to use simpler systems (and free or with semi-free versions), such as Wordfast or OmegaT.

Creating glossaries may seem like a big challenge at first, but it will certainly improve your translation speed if you often translate similar texts from a particular field. Luckily, there are quite useful instructions on how to do them.

Google Translate is for many translators the public enemy number one (perhaps next to low rates, agencies and spelling and grammatical errors). However, it is a tool that can, depending on the case, be useful to translate more quickly and if you do not understand the language in which something is written, it can give you some information about what it says.

However, if you do not understand the text that you have to translate, you should NEVER trust Google Translate. For beginners, it is not usually advisable to use this tool.

What is the text about and to whom it is addressed?

Before starting to work on your translation, it is essential that you read the original text at least once to get a general idea of the subject of this. This way, you will know what information you have to search online or if you have to look for a printed source. So you can also start thinking about the specialized vocabulary that you will have to use.

The intensity and thoroughness you put on your first reading will naturally depend on the amount of time you have for translation and the length of the text.

The first source of feasible information should always be reference books, online information and parallel texts. The arrival of the Internet in our lives brought with it an unprecedented amount of books and articles, all available in one place. Most of them we can access for free and 24 hours a day.


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