There’s a common misperception that translators know their languages so well that they can translate any document in their field straight out of their heads. In reality, translators have a whole slew of tools they use to make sure their translations are as accurate as possible. Here are some of them.

  • Machine translators – These are computer programs that translate a text from one language to another word for word. Often they don’t make sense. To a human translator, they give the gist of what the text is about and help them pick out trouble phrases.
  • Dictionaries – General and language-to-language dictionaries and thesauruses help a translator find just the right word with just the right meaning and tonal quality.
  • Custom card files – All good translators keep records of words and phrases that were difficult to translate in the past. The file is always expanding and shrinking, as the translator adds additional difficult words or throws away words or phrases they’re now sure of.
  • Phrase book in both languages – As early as the 1500’s, phrase books were used by medieval traders making deals with businessmen in other countries. Most good translators keep one on hand for the occasional sentence they suspect will need a different structure.
  • Industry-specific dictionaries – These show words and definitions of a particular industry, including jargon terms. Jargon terms are shortcuts for industry practices that would take a long time to explain normally. A good translator has to know the jargon for their industry in both languages.
  • Online research sites – Translators are often asked to translate documents about the latest industry news or about industry specialties they are not familiar with. Their online resources can include research sites, university sites, industry news sources, or online publications.
  • Industry books in both languages – Books with an overview of an entire industry and its subdivisions can be invaluable to translators, especially for scientific, legal, medical, or technical documents. Such books help a translator “place” the original document in its proper context.

Dialog One translators are artists whose tools help them create works of art, with accuracy as the ultimate goal. This includes words, meaning, and context. The translated document may not reflect an exact transcription, but will sound natural in the final language and will make the same sense that it did in the original language. It’s a good translation when a reader cannot tell that a text has been translated.