Essential Technologies for Translators

As a professional translator, I have lots to say on this topic. And the MOOC course provides lots inspirations. I reshuffled my thoughts and categorized these translation-oriented technologies into six groups.

1. Office technologies
1). MS office tools
I do not want to say Microsoft is the Big Brother in office technology, but most businesses are based on it, especially as a freelance translator. And to be sure, Microsoft does a good job. It provides powerful office tools, not to mention the cloud services which enable cross-platform work and collaboration.

Here is an example. A big part of freelance translator is to track the payment. And a neat solution is MS Excel. You may want to record the project name, workload, rate, payment amount, due time, client, etc. A basic sheet can take care of all these stuff. If you want it fancier, project names can be linked with related contents, such as email, and professional charts are instant results by certain commands. To go deeper, useful functions are simply cool to deal with bunch operations.

Another indispensable part of MS office tools is the cloud side: OneDrive. Brief functions of OneDrive are cross-platform operation and collaboration, and instant backup. To use OneDrive means to integrate MS office tools in one. A common scenario: communicate with clients by writing emails in Outlook, and link some email documents with workflow record in Excel sheet, synchronize the Excel document in OneDrive, open the Excel with any devices(mobile or PC) anytime, and send a link to your partner who can check or edit.

Most Translation Environment Tools are based on Microsoft system, which requires translators to be guru user of MS office technologies: the tools and the work environment as well.

Microsoft provides required education resources. There are training videossupportsforums and blogs on its sites. If you have not started yet, please save one hour to have a look at those official resources. From there you will know where to start and what to follow. What’s more, they provide training for the most recent MS technologies.

2). Other essential office tools
Office tools has to be diversified for the benefit of work efficiency. Let me make a short list:

  • FileZilla can help you to get content from clients’ FTP portal;
  • 7-Zip can pack or unpack your files or files from your clients;
  • Avira would protect your computer from various virus;
  • FastStone Capture is an elegant application for screenshots, picture edit and even recording;
  • TeamViewer is useful if you want to hold remote meetings;

It is impossible to make a comprehensive list to cover all needs, the key point is to customize your tool box according to your own requirements and then master them.

2. The Internet
We cannot over-emphasize the importance of internet, and translators especially live on it. I want to say two big things about how to use Internet. It is all about search, smart search.

1). Advanced Google search
Identify key words
It’s common for language service providers to run into knowledge blind points because human are not encyclopedia while assignments always surprise translators with content they are not familiar with. And Google is a powerful weapon to get the needed information

Generally, key words are just visually apparent, they are the term you are not certain of. For example, there is a “fair isle” describing sweaters and you do not know what does this term mean in the context. So this “fair isle” is the key word: search it in google, and you would find the second hit is what you want. After understanding the term’s meaning, you want to go deeper in translation: what is the common expression for “fair isle knitting” in the target language? Then you need add information in target language to enrich the key word group: to search bilingually. Still the “fair isle” example, if you translate in Chinese, the key words may go to: “fair isle 针织”, “fair isle 花纹”, “fair isle 毛衣”, then you can get enough relevant information to get what you need. Depend on the context, “费尔岛针织图案”, “费尔岛花纹” or “费尔岛花纹毛衣” maybe suitable.

 Search smart
Smart here means advanced: use operators. For me, my common operators are quotes, “site:”, “OR”, “-”, “define:”, “intext”, and I am enriching my operator pool. There are huge relevant tutorials, just a small list for your reference:

2). Academic resources: E-journals and Google scholar
This is what I learn from this MOOC course. Because my patrons are basically from fashion fields, academic resources are not that important. But for some very serious business, such medicine, law, chemistry, or other, I think these sources would be useful. Just a simple list for your reference:

In English:

In Chinese:

3. Corpus
Corpus, huge amount of structured texts, is used in various fields: machine translation, natural language processing, linguistic studies, and many others.

In term of content arrangement, aligned parallel corpora are similar with translation-oriented ones, and they are must-have investments. These materials are wisdom asset for institutions and individuals as well, providing most related references to enhance translation quality. In fact, translation memory (TM), which is the signature feature of translation environment tools, is composed of aligned bilingual corpus. It’s not surprising there are TM trades between individuals, although at the risk of violating translation ethics.

Other corpora are monolingual, and many are in open access mode. Linguistic research is the initial purpose to build these corpora. But translators can benefit from them as well. These sampled texts are valuable resources for translation writing. For example, we can retrieve certain words or phrases in certain online corpus, and judging from the hit frequency to determine a more natural way to use the words in translation.

Here are some open access corpora just for you references, most of them are monolingual:

In English:

In Chinese:

 4. Work in mature 2.0 style
I heard an interesting argument about translation work style: there are no individual translators any more, only team work. I agree with its underlying message: work as a team and work global. In this Information Age, a mature 2.0 style, if not 3.0, is essential for individuals and institutions to survive. Here are some very basic points:

1). Communicate in 2.0
Become an expert user of mainstream social media: for example, Twitter, Youtube, LinkedIn and ProZ are simply valuable. These media are interactive and collaborative, friendly for sharing and discussing.

2). Build your internet ID
One part of working global is to let people find you and be convinced by what they find. A good way is to establish your Internet ID: your sites, social media pages, portfolios and you name it. So take care of these stuff and save time to enrich them.

 5. Translation environment tools
The key point is not how many tools you can handle, but how deep you can master. There are lots translation environment tools, Trados, MemoQ, Wordsfast, OmegaT, Dejavu, and many others. These tools are not that different from each other, they all have TM and terminology features as their signatures. Just invest yourself to master one TenT tool before you go to others, and you will find how cost-effective this could be.

If you do not want to hire a personal trainer, there are huge education resources in Youtube. Save half an hour a day for tool study, you could become a guru within one year.

6. Content management technologies
Internet bestows us numerous valuable resources, but how to collect and manage them? Again I recommend Microsoft MS office tools. An excellent application is OneNote. You can record and synchronize text, image, audio in OneNote, and share it! OneNote has add-on for different browsers as well. For example, if you met a good article online, just right-click the mouse and command “Send to OneNote”, then you have it. There are many similar applications but I think OneNote is the best because it integrates with other MS office technologies and provide a seamless work environment.

Considering the increasing amount of information available, a better way to collect information is by subscribing, which automatically send you the required content. Subscribing by email or RSS is a neat approach. The source can be newsletters, personal blogs, institution sites.

And  bookmark is indispensable. I love Xmarks. It is so neat to sync my bookmarks across all browsers.

Technologies change so fast. Translators have to keep up upgrading their knowledge base to work more efficiently.  It is never too late to start sharpening your skills.  And upgrading technology capacity is a life-long task,  having no ceiling. What do you my dear reader think?

4 thoughts on “Essential Technologies for Translators”

  1. Daisy冷学姐,从头到尾我认认真真的看了大部分你写的随感和总结。虽然有些技术性东西不是非常清楚,但你似乎给我这green hand建造起了一座翻译的殿堂,其间每一件器物都精美绝伦。你说的每一个点都值得我去摸索去实际操作。希望I could become a guru within one or two years.谢谢你的分享。

    1. 这应该是同一门课程,只是放在不同的平台上了。MOOC模式的亮点之一是学员可以在平台上进行互动,所以即使各期的内容有重合,但由于论坛互动是最新的,也就有继续下去的价值了。我是第一次参加这门课,觉得还是挺有意思的:) 你也参加了这期的课了吗?

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