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What do you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out? Was there a resource online or offline that you found particularly helpful? How can new translators improve their translation skills at the beginning? Share your experiences, knowledge and insider tips!

16 comments

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    keith914nk

    It's been 7 months since I joined myGengo, and I could get some good advices from myGengo staff, for which I 'd appreciate a lot. One of the most impressive tips was, how to translate "you" into Japanese. It sometimes means,  company,  customer(s), friend(s), or people in general etc. Moreover, in English sentences, "you" appears many times and, it doesn't sound natural to translate each "you" every time. One of the useful ways to solve this problem is to use "keigo" or polite expression of the words. For example, when you translate " as you said", if "you" is customer, or boss, the translation would be "おっしゃったように”, "as I said" would be ”申し上げたように”... like this.

    There are a writer of the original language, a reader of the translated language, and a translator in between. Unfortunately, there's also a lot of information that only the writer and the reader know and the translator doesn't. This is  very tough. We need imagination then. The best way to have more imagination is to research online for any single word or term used, and try to know as much background as possible. Now, this research is a lot of fun for me too.

    Thanks,

    Keith

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    Natalia Manidis

    Two brilliant tips, Keith - one language-specific and one general - thanks so much for contributing! :) 

    It's also great to hear that you've been able to develop your skills through working for us. Hopefully, this continues going forward!

    Thanks again,

    Natalia

    PS Uses of "you" in Japanese vs "you" in English are so different, aren't they! I'd never really thought of this until you mentioned it. Interesting!

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    mistymikes

    I'm still pretty new here (4 or 5 months since I became a Pro translator), but there are a few things that I wish I'd have started doing sooner:

    1) Try to get double-confirmation on a new term, because sometimes different sources will contradict each other! (This isn't always because one of them is wrong.  Sometimes it's just very subjective.)

    2) Spot check yourself.  I occasionally look up a word even if I think I know it, just to be sure that my understanding hasn't shifted over time.  Memory is a funny thing!

    3) Continually educate yourself.  About.com has some great resources for French, and I use LiveMocha to practice my skills in a "no stress" environment.  There are several websites where you can practice another language and have your work checked by a native speaker in exchange for checking other member's work in your native language! 

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    Natalia Manidis

    These are great suggestions, mistymikes -- thanks!!

    I think small changes in your approach or method can make a huge difference -- tips like these are useful for everyone.

    Thanks again! :)

    Natalia

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    Miriam H.

    My advice is to hone your research skills. Dictionaries are limited tools because they can't give adequate context, whereas Google, if used well, can give you excellent context for how the source language phrase is used as well as target language possibilities. Image searches are great for things like product descriptions. Or, if a phrase sounds awkward, check it out in Google and evaluate the results carefully (some phrases will come up on Google a lot because they have been so often poorly translated; with advanced search you can limit to .uk or .com sites). Most of all, remember that you're not translating words, but contextualized meanings. It takes skill and a lot of practice!

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    Natalia Manidis

    I really like the Google image search idea, Miriam! Thanks for sharing! :)

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    Miriam H.

    Another point that I've noticed that novice translators need to consider: punctuation, capitalization, italics and sentence division are all part of a specific language. In my opinion, the translator should follow the rules AND customs for these matters in the target language. For example, in Italian, capitalization is often used just for emphasis, quotes around a word have a different connotation than in English, and sentences are generally longer and use lots of colons and semi-colons (I talk about these differences on my web site http://www.miriamhurley.com/Italian_versus_English.html). I've seen lots of otherwise pretty good translations that are unnecessarily faithful to the source language punctuation and formatting. 

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    mistymikes

    Forgot one:  Don't forget that people who are writing in other languages sometimes make typos, too.  :)  

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    Miriam H.

    A good way to catch typos and awkward flow is to have the computer read back your translation. In Macs, there is a native text-to-speech option. Last I heard, it can be downloaded for PCs. 

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    Natalia Manidis

    mistymikes, could you please explain your last point? Do you mean that it's important to consider context when reading the source text?

    Miriam, using a text-to-speech tool to have your translation read back to you is another AWESOME idea -- thanks! :)

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    mistymikes

    Natalia, all I meant was that sometimes if you don't recognize a word and can't find it in the dictionary, it's good to remember that it could be because there is a typo or a misspelling.  :)

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    Natalia Manidis

    Aaaah.. Now I understand -- thanks! And great tip! :)

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    randyjubay2004

    Your comments are really helpful for starters like me.

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    muzzifer

    Thanks for all these tips and comments! I just stumbled on to this forum today and I've been translating for (erstwhile My) Gengo for two years!

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    Natalia Manidis

    You're welcome, muzzifer! :) If you have any of your own, please add them to the list!

    Natalia

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    Ingunn W.

    One of my most important lessons early learned was to communicate with the customer. I know it sounds obvious, but I mean always communicate with the customer. I blew one of my very first jobs because I was so sure of my translation, I didn't even think to check. Now, whenever I wonder about something in the source text, I try to reach out to the customer, asking for context or if I'm reading what I think I'm reading.

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