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Five Things to Take Your Translation Skills to the Next Level

5113726589_850e28d216_bDo you want to charge higher rates and provide your clients with translations that will bring them the results they want? Then read this article, which lists five of the most important things you can do as a translator to make the shift from good to great.

Stop translating literally

This is a must unless you limit yourself to technical texts where literal translation is more or less okay. But if you aspire to go above this basic level, since you crave the higher rates paid for texts that call for a more creative approach, then you need to start thinking and writing differently. An important reason to do so is machine translation, which is getting better by the day. If you translate literally and so does the machine translator, not everyone will be happy to part with their money for your service.

Stop guessing

You often come across something in the original that you do not understand. This is the moment of truth for you as a translator. If you try to guess the meaning, you might be right, even more often than not. But if you are wrong translation, you will make the worst possible error. Unwillingness to research phrases that are new to you is an obstacle to your growth as a translation professional. Not only do you miss the opportunities to develop your knowledge of the source language, but you also turn away clients, as no one wants to pay for work with critical errors. Further reading: “How to Increase Your Rates as a Freelance Translator.”

Perform QA on every project

Make it a habit to run automated quality assurance for common error types on every translation. It does not matter which tools you choose to do it with; it is the consistency in doing it that matters. Although QA may be tedious, your clients will appreciate it, because it makes a measurable difference. Your translations will look more professional, and you will be sending a clear message to your clients that you take translation seriously.

Maintain project-specific and general glossaries

Keeping glossaries has several advantages. It makes you more disciplined and organized. Glossaries increase the consistency of your translations and help reduce omissions, especially if you use a QA tool to check translations against glossaries. You can also reuse glossaries in other projects in the future, so that you do not have to research terms again.

Maintain a list of problem words. Check each project against it.

Make it a habit to keep a list of words associated with a higher risk of error, such as mistranslation or omission. For example, if you notice that you tend to translate “form” as “from,” add the former to this list. Whenever you make a mistranslation or omission, add the word or phrase to your list. Use your automated quality assurance tool to check against this list after each translation. By doing this consistently, you will significantly reduce the amount of errors that you make.

In conclusion

Since most of the recommendations in this article are difficult or downright boring, you will need perseverance to follow them at first. But as you keep on doing so with your teeth clenched, they will gradually become habits.

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  • Artyom Vecherov says:

    There’s double occurence of “as” in “For example, if you notice that you tend to translate “form” as as “from,” add the former to this list.”

  • Artyom Vecherov says:

    And I want to thank you for this article. It surely should be translated into Russian, because literal translation and guessing Source TU’s meaning at a venture are both VERY common approaches to translation work among many Russian translators, including those dealing with other language pairs. As for terminology and QA checks, I highly recommend Verifika.

    I really like your advice about maintaining a list of problem words. I was also thinking about some checklists to be routinely applied to every translation project. For example, it may be usefull to check whether the form of incorporation of “ABC” Ltd. is translated as «ООО “ABC”» throughout the whole document (not as «ОАО», accidentally), or that the proper gender is used — i.e., «ООО “ABC” заключилО договор на поставку». Such checklists may be rendered automatically either by using a dedicated profile in Verifika (or any other similar QA tool), or by creating appropriate exact match and regular expression glossaries (to inject correct date and number formats, for instance) in TermInjector, if you are using Trados Studio. Sorry, I have no idea if OmegaT supports injecting terms into TM proposals according to exact match/regular expression rules or not.

    • Here is how we use the list of problem words:

      It is included in our main Verifika profile. This list can be edited either through Verifika or directly by editing the profile using a text editor.

      The first QA run includes checking against this list, as it is loaded by default.

      After the first QA run, we delete this list and add the project-specific glossary for the second QA run.

      After the second QA run, we close the project in Verifika WITHOUT saving the profile to make sure the list of problem words does not get overwritten by the project-specific glossary.

      Currently, OmegaT supports inserting the translated terms directly into the translation through a script called search_replace_pretranslate.groovy (written by Kos Ivantsov). The script uses a tab-delimited file (regular expressions are supported for source terms) to populate the translation with the translated terms.

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About the Author

Roman Mironov
Roman Mironov
CEO & Founder

As the founder of Velior, Roman has had the privilege of being able to turn his passion for languages into a business. He has over 15 years of experience in the translation industry. Roman has helped dozens of clients increase sales by making their products appealing for speakers of other languages.