As a translator, building vocabulary and style resources is an essential part of growing and improving your business –even when it might seem like an overwhelming task, or a distraction from your core job. If you’re a new translator just starting out, there’s already so much to keep track of –marketing, administrative tasks, getting into the swing of the job itself– and if you’re an established translator with many years of experience, it’s tempting to assume that if you’ve made it this far, a resource bank won’t do you any good now. But in reality, to ignore these kinds of materials is to deny yourself some huge opportunities.
Linguistic resources will not only make you more competitive in the fast-moving language services market, they’ll also make your life easier. Here’s why.
Let’s start with term bases and translation memories. For the uninitiated, these are databases created by computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools which consist of a list of source-language terms and the way(s) in which you’ve previously translated them. In general, a term base usually operates at the per-word or short-phrase level, while a translation memory can work with sentences or even entire paragraphs. If you use a good CAT tool, these resources will naturally build up for you over time, and if you work for a translation agency then they may provide one for you to work with on each job. These resources get more and more useful the longer you work with them, and can save you huge amounts of time if you work on repetitive texts or your customers use a lot of specialist terminology. And there’s a side benefit to all this, as well: since CAT tools are now considered essential for many translation projects, getting hold of one will open up job opportunities that might otherwise have been closed off to you.
Glossaries are similar to term bases, but are more tightly focused on single words or specific terms. They’re often compiled manually (as opposed to the way CAT tools automatically track your translations as you work), and you don’t need any specialist software to produce one, so the only cost of creating them is your time investment. If you’re not persuaded of the need to spend a potentially large sum of money on a CAT tool yet – though many translators do report quick returns on their investments – then a glossary can be a good middle-ground option. It can be as simple as a spreadsheet where you keep track of key terms which you can look up for quick reference, and it can come in particularly handy if you work in a specialist technical field, for example.
Style guides are most often used by big businesses looking to co-ordinate their use of language across multiple writers, but they can be useful for individual translators as well. It’s always worth asking your customer if they have a style guide already, but if they don’t have one and they’re one of your regulars, it could be well worth writing one for your own reference. Documenting and codifying a company’s use of language can help you tighten up your style, leaving a stronger, more positive impression in readers’ minds. The key advantages all of these resources share are consistency and future-proofing. In having a collection of reference material all in one place, you’ll ensure you always translate key terms the same way. This improves the quality of your translations, benefiting the customer and therefore you as well.
The sooner you build up resources like these, the better your results will be – and the more they’ll improve over time as you expand and add to them. In short, all of these tools will let you work faster and produce reliably excellent work. If you ask us, that’s an investment well worth making!
Oleg Semerikov is a translator and CEO/Co-founder of Translators Family Sp. z o.o., a translation services company with focus on English, German, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian and other European languages. Follow Translators Family on social media: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+.