How to improve your translation skills?

How to improve your translation skills?

“The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement”; how true is it for a translator?

An education of a translator is not finished upon the completion of the university. In fact, majority of linguists state that starting a career exposed the lack of professional expertise. Every vocation requires devotion and readiness to broaden one’s knowledge and horizons. No wonder then that translators and interpreters have to stay up to date with current standards and technological progress. As long as they do not want to fall behind their competitors on the market, obviously. In this profession, it is vital to tirelessly work on one's language abilities, fluency and general knowledge. There is, however, one question that remains unanswered. How to make sure that our educational efforts are actually fruitful?

Lack of time and motivation: two issues that tirelessly sabotage linguists’ efforts

Having the possibility to focus solely on improving one's translation skills seems to be reserved for the students. Following graduation, there are more things that require your attention. While you are trying to find your place in this competitive field, your free time becomes a thing of the past. Young translators spend most of the day completing their work-related activities anyway. The perspective of coming back from their job and having to finish additional tasks is not appealing at all. Majority of these professionals reach the so-called “OK plateau”. They can fully commit to entrusted tasks and complete them, delivering a satisfying translation. There is a catch, however. They stop longing for improvement. Thankfully, there is a number of ways to find both motivation and time to broaden your knowledge. No matter how busy you are.

Seize every opportunity to learn – even at work

Completing entrusted tasks at work is the easiest way to expand your knowledge. At a certain point, daily responsibilities seem simply too mundane to learn from them. Identifying the educational potential is a matter of switching the way of thinking. If you are an in-house translator, and are mostly given tasks related to legal translation, try to leave your comfort zone. Ask a project manager for more challenging text within your expertise or educational background, e.g. related to technology or medicine. Don’t force it, sometimes giving up on performing a given translation that you feel is too difficult might be a good idea. You can still try to translate that text anyway and, upon the completion of the order by an expert in this field, compare your version with the their deliverable.. While attending official events, conferences and meetings, step out of the shadows. Do not hesitate to ask your colleagues with considerable expertise in the field for a word of advice. Learn more about the resources they use. Check whether you can also gain access to dictionaries, corpora and professional databases. Try introducing CAT tools into your daily translation routine. See how much satisfaction you can get from preparing term bases and translation memories.

transaltion memories

… and there’s also something for those needing more discipline: official courses

Some time ago the world “procrastination” became a viral sensation on the Internet. It might seem that it is nothing more than a way of admitting to being lazy in fairly admirable words. But still, it perfectly describes many professionals who just cannot get down to business when things do not involve tight deadlines. In such cases, workshops, conferences and courses come to the rescue. Regardless of their experience and education, the linguists are required to appear at a given time. Their attendance is vital for the successful completion of a given course. Some of these learning opportunities demand just a few hours of your time (such as workshops on medical translation). The other ones might resemble a university course. In such a case, the professional must find at least a few hours every week to attend the classes and complete extra assignments. One can choose between multiple courses. Some are aimed at preparing legal or technical translation. The others focus on passing the national examination to become a sworn translator or honing your interpreting skills.

But first and the foremost, set the precise aim.

Lifelong learning is part and parcel of translator’s job. It is way better to understand this specific characteristic before we conclude that having completed university education, the graduate is fully equipped with all the skills needed to perform translations. Legal translators have to keep up with current legislation and amendments. Medical translators are in even worse situation. Specialists interested in ever-changing fields, such as cardiology or oncology, cannot take for granted anything they have learnt just one year ago. When the need to develop one’s skills arises, the specific aim has to be set: decide what do you want to achieve. Would you like to leave your comfort zone far behind and start translating entirely different texts? Or you have always felt like interpretation is not your cup of tea… but have never given it a try? Whatever the reasons behind your decision, defining your goal is fundamental. Avoid general statements and set clear aims. Is there a certificate that would confirm your skills? A course or training that, upon completion, would provide new work opportunities? Do your research and state your wishes. 

Even when you make tiny steps, you are in the process of making a giant leap forward

You might not notice immediate results or realise that performing your tasks is suddenly easier. But every single step towards the development of your skills furthers your career. It helps to broaden your knowledge and incorporate vital changes into a daily work routine. This way, it allows you to become a more successful and efficient translator. A professional’s desire for change should always start with setting clear aims. Creating a vague outline of actions that would contribute to success is also essential. Based on your experience, decide what works best for you: whether you are motivated more by external factors or your own inner desires and hopes. And while we cannot guarantee that you will achieve it in no time… every step taken is usually a step ahead. 


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