Let's start this article with the following statements and a question: I speak two languages because I learned them at school or because I grew up in a country with a different language than my native language, or because my grandparents spoke another language and I grew up with them or because my friend (neighbor, colleague, etc.) is teaching me and we practice every day or because I know how to use a dictionary. Does that make me a translator?
Being a translator is not only about rendering words from one language to another, but it is about knowing the culture, grammar, spelling, and other methods and techniques of translation that are taught in institutes, universities, or other entities that train and certify translators.
Have you ever come across a sign that has no meaning, is funny, has no sense, and is perhaps insulting? If the answer is yes, then it means that a bilingual person translated it, but not a translator. Translators are bilingual or multilingual, but bilingual or multilingual people are not translators.
How can you improve as a translator? Here are eight keys to becoming a successful translator:
1. LEARN ABOUT THE SUBJECTS TO BE TRANSLATED.
Let's say your area of expertise is in the legal field, but you get a business translation document. Although the two have something in common, the language is not the same. You have two options: give the paper to a business translation expert or read a lot. Learn how business language is developed and use the correct terminology. The more informed you are, the easier and smoother the translation. Remember that a dictionary is only a tool (20%), and the rest is you (80%).
2. SPECIALIZE IN AN AREA O CATEGORY
Just as in school, there are courses we are passionate about, and there are others we don't even want to take; the same applies to the field of translation. If you are passionate about medicine, become an expert in medical translation; if you are passionate about law, become a legal translator; if sports are your thing, then become a sports translator; take advantage of your passion for developing as a translator in that field. If you still don't know what type of translation you like best, try experimenting with articles you can find online. This way, you will find the specialization that is right for you.
3. MAKE GOOD USE OF PRINTED OR VIRTUAL DICTIONARIES
There are many language dictionaries and robotic translators that you can find in a bookstore, library, or thrift store, from someone who gave them to you as a gift, and through internet search engines and more. Be very careful with this because not all dictionaries are correct. Before buying a dictionary, research the author, the edition (if it is outdated, you will not find modern terms), and if the dictionary has the localization terms required for the translation. Spanish from Spain is different from Central American Spanish, which in turn is different from South American Spanish. A dictionary will give you the words from the source language to the target language, but you provide the meaning of the translation.
In the dictionary, you will find several meanings for a word, and you will ask yourself which one to use; the answer lies in your experience, knowledge of the subject you are translating, and understanding of the subject. That is why it is necessary to read a lot and soak up the terminologies in the source and target languages.
For example, Auxilio (requesting help) differs from Auxilio (assistance). In legal terminology, Auxilio can refer to the action of an accomplice in a crime; in medical terminology, it can refer to someone's request for help.
4. DON'T TRUST A ROBOTIC TRANSLATOR
Robotic or online translators are very popular today. Some are free and easy to use. For translating simple things, they are perfect. Still, if you have to translate an essential document, it is best to do a translation using the tools, methods, and techniques learned in a translator training institution. As translators, we are responsible for the content of the translation and the precision or accuracy that it is a complete and true translation of the original document. A robotic translator does not offer these translation qualities. Some virtual translators do a good job, such as Trados for freelancers. Still, again it is important to emphasize that your knowledge and experience are the keys to successfully translating a document.
5. PROOFREAD THE TRANSLATED DOCUMENT AT LEAST THREE TIMES AT
DIFFERENT TIMES OF THE DAY.
A translation is like a work of art; our work and effort using tools, techniques, and methods will help us obtain an optimal result.
In my experience as a translator, I have learned to proofread translations at least three times at different times of the day has helped me a lot with the quality of the product. Why? Spending too much time on a single document creates redundancy, and the translator's creativity can become blocked. We can make the mistake of using words that are not appropriate for the paper we are translating. When you find yourself tired or bored of translating the same topic, take a break, read something that has nothing to do with the subject of the translation and when you have removed the blockage from your mind, go back to your translation and this time you will see it differently. You will also notice spelling mistakes that Word's proofreader missed; you will be able to calmly check the grammar of the content and the meaning of the translated subject. That is the reason why experts recommend that translations should be done between two to three days; this time will allow you to review the document at different times or days so that you can find errors (if any), review the sense of the subject, check for accuracy and review the cultural content. Remember: Picasso did not complete his great works of art in one hour.
6. PARTNER WITH OR HIRE A PROOFREADER TO READ YOUR TRANSLATED
Proofreaders are responsible for correcting style, but they are also in charge of reading and re-reading each paragraph to correct errors. They must check for spelling mistakes (typos) and the syntax and semantics of each sentence, i.e., ensure that it is correctly constructed and that the idea you want to convey is understood.
7. PRACTICE CONSTANTLY COMPARING TEXTS THAT HAVE ALREADY BEEN
PUBLISHED IN THE SOURCE AND TARGET LANGUAGES.
Practice makes perfect. On the Internet, some publications are written in different languages. For example, the Harry Potter book has been translated into more than 70 languages, and the Bible into more than 400 languages. Search for a book of your choice in your native language and look it up in the other language you are fluent in.
Translate chapter by chapter. There you will notice how the words are selected for the intended audience and the localization of the translated text ("flat" => "apartment").
8. CREATE A GLOSSARY OF TERMS THAT DO NOT HAVE A LITERAL OR
CONCEPTUAL TRANSLATION OF A WORD OR PHRASE.
Create a personal glossary with words or sentences that have no literal translation but to which you give meaning according to the context.
For example, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree" – if we write that phrase in Spanish, it would say, "La manzana no cae muy lejos del arbol"- That analogy does not make sense in Spanish. Its equivalent translation in Spanish would be: "De tal palo, tal astilla." Both phrases mean the same thing but do not have the exact translation.
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