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Checklist for Becoming a Better Translator


translation-checklistTo become a better translator, you need to be more than just bilingual. Even with the best dictionary on hand, a translator may find it hard to find a suitable equivalent for a word. Translation is a craft that must be practiced consistently from the very beginning.

Here are some tips to improve your translation skills:

  • Start by translating into your native language instead of from your native language – until your skills improve. For example, take an excerpt of any topic from any website written in your target language and translate it into your native language. Spend at least 10 minutes a day doing this.
  • Read a lot to improve your vocabulary in your own language. Look up words you do not understand.
  • Widen your knowledge in many fields: business, medicine, information technology, law, finance, etc to help create job opportunities. Familiarize yourself with the terminology used in these fields, both in your native language and in the target language.
  • Research cultural differences between your language and the target language.
  • Constantly improve your knowledge of idiomatic expressions and figurative speech in the target language.
  • Read the translation out loud to determine if it is high quality.
  • Keep up with current affairs by listening to, watching, and reading the news.
  • Get yourself trained in the IT skills needed for translation jobs – typing, basic computer skills such as creating word processing documents or spreadsheets, and so on.
  • Build a glossary of all key terms in a certain field in your language and in the target language.
  • Correspond with someone else who also speaks your native language regularly.
  • Keep your translations as simple as possible while still retaining the text’s original meaning. Don’t add unnecessary complexity just because you think it sounds more scholarly or “smarter”. Keep your readers in mind by staying concise and on topic.
  • A good translator, first of all, must be a good writer and editor. Make sure you are both of these by continuing to practice daily.
  • A good translator also needs to be a great listener.
  • Keep up-to-date reference books such as dictionaries in your own language and your target language handy for quick reference.

The Long and Short of it All

The ultimate goal for most translators is to know two or more languages fluently in order to make a career out of translating. You must be able to write well in each language and translate copy into your native language, which is the accepted way to translate text in most cases.

Here are 2 additional tips to speed up the process of becoming fluent in a language:

  • Use immersion techniques to speed your understanding of a language as well as its slang and common idioms. For example, live in a country that speaks the language, or enroll in an immersion program such as a language camp.
  • Have a good computer with a fast Internet connection. Have Excel, Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, and a PDF reader like Adobe Acrobat in order to be able to do your reading and to create or access any online documents a client may assign to you.
  • The demand for translators has been ever increasing – especially for Spanish translation in highly populated areas like Los Angeles and Orange County, California. In addition to certifications, many translators strive to get a degree in English, communications, journalism, or writing in his or her native language with a minor in the target language.

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