10 tips to rock your translation!

Posted : May 18, 2016
Category : Tips media localization & accessibility

Written by Julie Sellier

At a time when globalisation is on everyone’s lips, mastering at least one language -without taking into account your mother tongue, that would be too easy- has became a vital criterion.

And it is obvious that this globalisation has led to an unprecedented wave of translation that keeps on amplifying through new information and communication technologies.

In a world where the importance of languages such as Spanish, English or Chinese is growing day by day, the stakes of translation increasingly take the centre stage. They are not only linguistic or technical, but also political, economical and cultural.

Therefore, here are 10 tips to rock your translation step by step:

1- Read the text several times

As you know, and it cannot be stressed often enough: reading the text several times is the key to begin the translation process. It is in fact an intrinsic factor of the translation.

The repeated reading is the best common way to understand the text and its topic.


2- Examine the context

Identifying the context, during the reading, is an automatic instinct you have to develop in order to adapt and use the correct language. As a consequence, you must distinguish several elements such as the source of the text, either it is extracted from a newspaper or a book for example, the intended audience, the register of the language, etc.

Then you will have to adapt your language depending on those elements, which leads to the following stage, namely using appropriate vocabulary.

3- Find out appropriate vocabulary and use the correct language

Always during the reading and after having understood the subject, you have to properly use a specific vocabulary in relation to the tone, the topic and the target group.

In other words, you have to consider the lexical field and to use a specific vocabulary according to the topic.

One of the common challenges of translation is the issue of idiomatic expressions, which do not use the same metaphor according to the language you have to translate. For example, “quand les poules auront des dents“ will not be translated as “when chickens have teeth“ but as “when pigs fly“.

4- Identify the words or expressions that you do not know

Another aspect that can be very useful while translating is to enhance and underline the words and expressions that you do not know how to translate at first sight.

While reading, it may help you finding synonyms and understanding the meaning of the sentence. You can also check the words or expressions that remain untranslated.

For example, you can have to translate in English Commission des valeurs immobilières. But your viewer might have to contact it or to search informations on the internet about it, hence the need to properly know the official name.

As a consequence, you should translate in that form for example: Mr Smith works for Commission des valeurs immobilières, the Quebec securities commission. The use of lowercase characters aims to warn that it is not the official term but only a description.

5- Avoid the “calque“

One of the other gold rules is to avoid the “calque“. That is to say, do not be literal. Translation buyers and readers never appreciate documents that sounds literally translated, a word-for-word carbon copy of a foreign language.

To avoid this common mistake, you have to clearly understand the theme -see tip 2. In fact, the translator mission is to keep the idea, the meaning of the document without translating the source language word-to-word.

Here is the main challenge of translation: namely to faithfully transpose the meaning while also writing in a correct language, which leads to the following tip: mastering the target language along with the source language.

6- Master the language

It can be very challenging to translate in an language that you do not master. To remedy the situation, you need to permanently read the press such as The Guardian for example.

It has never been more easier than nowadays through the expansion and the spread of new information and communication technologies: as almost 2 billions of smartphones were sold in 2015, they provide easy access to many mobile applications so no more excuses for not reading the news !

The aim of mastering a language is to prevent from false sense, barbarism, etc, and it helps to properly transmit every subtleties of the text.

7- Overcome the challenges

Even if you are a native speaker, it is still possible to discover new words. In the same way for translation, even if you speak and learn a language for 20 years, you may have to face challenges with new words or expressions which sparks waves of stress in most cases.

However, panic does not help! A qualified translator can also face that kind of challenges so do not be ashamed.

In this direction, text understanding and its mastering are essential: you just have to find a synonym as long as the main idea is kept.

8- Pay attention to the writing style

In addition to the elements mentioned above, translation also requires good writing skills. The translator has to transpose the tone, the meaning and the register in an objective way and in a correct language as he translates and does not create.

Reading the press may also be important here.

9- Diversify and mix the tools

Do not think that translators know every single word of every language possible by heart! The more different tools you will use, the more effective translation will be. For example, a good advice would be to constitute a glossary, an alphabetical lexicon that tabulates every specific term, that you can improve during each of your translations.

It is a tool that will evolve gradually throughout you career. Moreover, put an end to GoogleTranslate or other similar online dictionnary which translates word-to-word. You should better use Linguee for example: it is a multilingual dictionary that provides translations extracted from real documents unlike GoogleTranslate that automatically translates via a cyber-robot.

Finally, despite the incredible development of new digital technologies, nothing beats the good old conventional dictionary that never disappoints.

10- Proofread once you have finished the translation

Once you have finished the translation, all that remains is one final step : proofreading. Firstly, you should read your text slowly and carefully to determine whether it communicates the good meaning of the original document or not.

Once that part is done, you just need to perform a more exacting analysis to check if any error in spelling, word usage, grammar and punctuation remains.


Right, broadly speaking, a good translation just needs to merely give the impression that it has been written in its native language. After carrying out each tip mentioned here, you can be sure that your translation will rock.