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Ten things a translator needs – number 2

In this new-for-2022 blog series, we’re highlighting what we feel a translator needs in order to do a good job.

Having already discussed the importance of being interested in the subject matter, we now turn our attention to the willingness to undertake Internet research. Even working in a limited number of subject areas, most translators will cover a lot of ground and cannot hope to find all the necessary background information inside their own head. The Internet is invaluable here.

A classic example would be a press release on an M&A transaction, where details of the two companies’ business activities are given. This content will typically be based on carefully crafted boilerplate that is already being used across a range of touchpoints. Translating it from scratch would risk undermining the consistency of the company’s image. A professional translator will want to visit the company’s website and identify the corresponding text in the required language (always assuming the company has an online presence in that language).

Any description of an object or locality will also generally require online research. A picture really is worth a thousand words – even a careful description is often open to interpretation, making an accurate translation difficult. It would be interesting to give a description of an office building, for example, to ten different people and ask them to draw the building. The results would probably differ widely and might bear very little resemblance to reality. If an average reader cannot visualise the building accurately based on the description, nor can even the most conscientious translator.

Of course it takes time to research things online, but the information itself is mostly free so there’s no excuse not to do so (anyone who remembers how much specialist dictionaries used to cost, will certainly welcome that). Obviously, care is needed to ensure that one is using reliable sources…

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