We work with words; therefore dictionaries are one of our key tools. It is very important to know how to use a dictionary and what they can offer us.
But the definition of words isn’t everything – as a translator you must have heard millions of times that the most important thing about words is their context. So we also need to have some sources to check the context of a word. One of the most famous websites for this is Linguee: a website that provides real-life examples of the word or sentence you are looking for.
Another thing to look at when considering the context is parallel texts. Parallel texts are documents in different languages about the same topic. They are very useful when translating, as you can check not only the terminology but also the expressions that are used in different languages in different contexts. A parallel text could be a manual, magazine, book or brochure. When looking for parallel texts we should avoid translated texts, as it is always better to read articles that have been written directly in the target language.
Sources are constantly changing and developing. Nowadays, thanks to the might of Google et al, it is much easier to find information but it’s also much more difficult to know how to evaluate and critically select the most valuable material amongst all the information we can find online.
We must ensure that the information we use comes from a reliable source. Where does it come from? Is it from an organisation, a well-known company in the industry or a well-recognised person?
We also need to take into account the way the source is being written. Are there typos? Grammar mistakes? Is the register, tone or language the most adequate? You have to take special care when using a translated source so you don’t copy over any of the errors of the original translator.
So there you go – translation isn’t as simple as just looking up the words in a dictionary, a translator must explore and research the topic in-depth to truly understand the material and ensure that the translation conveys the meaning as accurately and as fluently as possible.