The majority of the time, translating documents is an interesting and enjoyable career. However, there are times when translators run into dead-ends and can’t see any way forward with the document they are working on. Here we consider a few typical dead-ends that translators face and offer some solutions for getting past them.
Lack of source language knowledge
In an ideal world, translators would be entirely fluent in both the source language and the target language, but this is not always the case. Usually, a minor lack of knowledge of the source language can be overcome with the help of a good dictionary. However, there are some moments when a translator is faced with a phrase or short sentence that simply does not make sense, even when the individual words have been looked up.
This can often be due to an idiom that the translator is not familiar with being used in the source language. Goggling the phrase can often break the deadlock and shed some light on what the meaning of the idiom is. Then all the translator needs to do is rephrase it suitably into the target language, to ensure that the meaning is carried across.
Words that don’t exist
Occasionally a translator may come across a word that exists in the target language but that does not exist in the source language. Every language has words that cannot be translated easily and these can post serious problems for translators. The translator should bear in mind too that there may be typos in the source document – so you could be trying to find the meaning of a word that actually doesn’t exist!
In these instances, common sense is the only possible solution. You will need to translate the rest of that sentence, plus the one after and then infer form context what the mystery word should be. Translate a further couple of sentences and then check back again to make sure it makes complete sense.
It may be an unusual one to include in a round up of dead-ends faced by translators, but boredom can actually have a major impact. While translation can often be fulfilling, there are always those dull and repetitive documents that end up at the bottom of the ‘to do’ list due to their boring nature. It gets to late afternoon and the temptation can be all too great to move the boring document onto the next day’s work pile.
The solution? Tackle boring documents head on! Move them up to the front of the queue and get started on them first thing in the morning. Play music while you work to keep your spirits up and set reward targets for yourself after every hour you have spent translating to ensure your motivation doesn’t waver.
What dead-ends have you faced during your translation career? How did you overcome them? Let us know via the comments.