Translate Faster With the Help of Electronic Terminology Tools

The following is a recap of the CTA workshop “Fahrenheit 451” presented by Thais Lips in Denver on October 18, 2014.

By Marion Rhodes
CTA Social Media Coordinator

Over the last few decades, technology has had a tremendous impact on the way translators work. And while some changes, such as the switch from typewriters to computers, were embraced wholeheartedly, other developments have been slower to catch on. The most obvious reminder of the olden days of translation may be the volumes of hard-copy dictionaries that can be found on the desks and shelves of linguists around the globe.

During her workshop “Fahrenheit 451,” CTA President Thais Lips introduced her audience to a faster method for researching terminology. Ten members of the Colorado Interpreters & Translators Association attended the event at the University of Denver.

CTA members listened attentively as Thais Lips explained the benefits of using electronic sources for terminology research. Photo by Marion Rhodes
CTA members listened attentively as Thais Lips explained the benefits of using electronic sources for terminology research. – Photo by Marion Rhodes

“Don’t burn your dictionaries,” the title of the workshop stated, “but learn to research in a savvier way.” True to this premise, Thais’ workshop focused on tools that can help speed up the process of finding the right word. The most important step: transferring dictionaries from the shelf to the computer.

First, Thais introduced her audience to the concept of dictionary lookup programs such as GoldenDict or Babylon. These programs are databases that allow users to search various publicly available dictionaries, glossaries and encyclopedias for terms and provide the option of integrating other electronic dictionaries the user has purchased electronically. “You can find most of your dictionaries in electronic version,” Thais explained.

Using Babylon as an example, Thais demonstrated how to work with a dictionary manager during the translation process. The participants followed along on their laptops, using a free trial version of the program they had downloaded prior to the workshop.

However, Thais pointed out that finding the translation for a word in the dictionary doesn’t necessarily mean this particular translation will be appropriate in the given context. For professional translators, adding a second step is crucial: verifying the term that was found in the dictionary through secondary sources.

Here, too, Thais pointed out the benefits of the Internet. With the help of, Linguee, TheFreeDictionary and Google, she said, she has been able to verify the vast majority of terms in a relatively short period of time. “If you were to make all this research with books, I assure you that it would take much longer,” she said. By using electronic sources for her research, she said, translators will be able to increase their word output by at least 25%.

The final step in this terminology QA process consists of documenting your findings to protect your work. Thais said that once she finds proof to substantiate her word choice, she either bookmarks or saves the relevant page, or she records her findings in an Excel spreadsheet. That way, she is covered in case the client or an editor questions her choice later.

Increased speed is not the only benefit of this method, Thais pointed out. By saving time on researching terminology, translators will be able to pay more attention to style and word choice. This will improve the quality of the overall translation, leading to happy clients. And we all know that happy clients can turn into repeat clients.