Tricks of the Trade: 5 Resources to Make Every Translator’s Life Better

We all like the idea of being a productivity machine, ploughing through the day’s to-do list without batting an eyelid in the face of endless distractions. Alas, that scenario is easier imagined than achieved.

As a translator, being efficient means translating more words every hour, which means more money earned in a day — and I’m sure that’s music to your ears. But how do you become a faster and better translator?

Here are some tools and resources that every translator can utilise to create a more productive and efficient workday.

1. Let technology begin your work.

For most of us, getting started is the most intimidating part of working on any project. With the help of machine translation, you can eliminate the anguish of staring at a blank slate and the compulsion to attend to “other urgent things” — like checking the sky for clouds — before finally forcing yourself to type the first word of the day.

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Of course, you can’t expect machine translation software to be perfect (if it were, you would be out of your job). This tool functions as a starting point of your work, translating your source text into a rough draft in your target language so you can work on refining it.

A translation tool that has captured the attention of the translation community is DeepL Translator, developed by a German startup. The company employs machine learning and innovative language processing technologies to train the software to produce translations that are as fluid as possible. This is something you would want to try if your work revolves around European languages such as Portuguese, Dutch and Polish.

A good machine translation tool should be able to integrate into your computer-aided translation (CAT) tools. So whichever software or website you decide to use, make sure that it offers features beyond merely translating texts for you.

2. Get a trusty translation assistant.

The most useful CAT technology every translator should have in her/his toolkit is translation memory. Not to be confused with machine translation, CAT tools streamline the translation process without doing any actual translation for you.

Translation memory software works like an efficient secretary who helps you stay organised and reminds you of the things you’ve said or written before. It stores translated segments of your project in its database so it can suggest terms and phrases that you may reuse whenever it encounters similar segments at a later stage of your translation process. This will save you time from having to frequently scroll back to earlier sections of your document in an attempt to recall the right word to use.

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If you are new to translation memory technology, give tools like OmegaT a go. It’s free and works with the major operating systems (Windows, macOS, Linux) as well as a variety of file formats. The application also supports non-Latin alphabets and right-to-left languages.

More than just a community of translators, Jala is another place where you can access helpful features including translation memory to enhance your workflow.

3. When in doubt, consult the dictionary.

No matter how talented a translator you are, you can’t thrive without a good translation dictionary. Thanks to the internet, it is possible to have access to one without spending a single cent.

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While not all free resources online are good, there are a few that are reliable for professional use. One such example is WordReference, which includes 19 languages and a variety of bilingual combinations for popular languages such as Spanish-Italian, Korean-English and English-Arabic.

When you search a word or phrase, the results include figurative terms and slangs related to your search. This resource is especially helpful for English and Spanish translators since these two make up the bulk of the language combinations.

4. Be an eager student.

A good translator is always striving to be better. Fortunately, there are many online short courses available today that allow you to enhance your skills at a low cost or none at all. Popular platforms for online courses include Udemy, Coursera and OpenLearn.

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Translators who are new to the craft and want to learn how to implement smooth work processes can enrol themselves in basic courses such as Working with Translation: Theory and Practice and How to be a Successful Freelance Translator. Jala also runs webinars for translators to learn tricks of the trade and offers tips on how to use CAT tools.

As for translators who are more advanced in their career, short courses are especially beneficial if you wish to specialise in a niche. For example, Udemy offers the course Website Localization for Translators to teach students how to translate and localise websites.

5. Stay organised with a productivity app.

Productivity apps are all the hype these days, but the last thing you want is to download five different apps and become overwhelmed by to-dos everywhere. Pick one that works best for you.

Todoist is one to consider: besides being a place for you to keep track of your tasks, it can be integrated with other apps such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Slack and Timely. If you are willing to fork out a few dollars every month for the paid version, Todoist will even provide you with a visualisation of your daily and monthly progress through colour-coded graphs.

Photo by Isaac Smith on Unsplash

In line with its goal to promote a calmer, more balanced way to work, the app has a contemporary and minimalist interface to help you stay focused on your priorities throughout the day.

Do you have a favourite tool or resource that makes you a better and more effective translator? Let us know in the comments!

Written by Amanda Soo

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Jala Translate

Jala Translate

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Jala is a community-powered translation platform connecting people and translations across the globe.