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3-step translation approach?
Thread poster: irishpolyglot

Local time: 19:22
French to English
+ ...
Aug 20, 2007

Hi everyone!

I have only been doing this (translating) for slightly less than two years and was trained on-the-job, so I am only familiar with the way the company I originally worked for does translations and I work that way as a freelance.

I would like any thoughts on possible theory that I might have missed with no formal translation education; I am an engineer by trade, and my training was by trial-and-error with a supervisor checking all translations and giving detailed criticism at the end of every week until she was satisfied with what I was producing. And most importantly, I would like to know your translation methods, since mine is a "3-step" approach:

1. Translate the entire document in one swoop, with almost no use of a dictionary (unless it is key to understanding or in the title), and leave a symbol beside every word or phrase that I was not sure of (I use the Spanish ¿ symbol, since it is never used in an English text, and mark anything that I even have the slightest doubt about)

2. Go through each of those marked points, researching online and in dictionaries how to best translate it and replace them.

3. Very carefully read (and re-read) the entire document to make sure that it sounds natural and is the best possible translation (I use synchronous-scrolling with the original on the side), correcting obvious "direct" translations, etc. etc.

I am sure you would all have other methods and I am curious to get to know them! I do it this way since I work faster doing the same task consistently (rather than translate one easy paragraph quickly and then have my flow stopped having to spend time researching a new term at the beginning of the next one for example).

Oh and, I have Wordfast, but my use of it up until now has really not let me understand why CAT tools are necessary unless the document has several repetitions in it. (The company I worked for did not use CAT tools... as you can see I'm trying to expand on what I learned with them).

Thanks for your thoughts!!

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Brigitte Hamilton  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:22
Member (2007)
German to English
That's how I started, but.... Aug 21, 2007

I also started my translation 'career' this way, because it seems sort of intuitive (do what's 'easy', then correct and polish) but I found that by doing only a rudimentary translation the first time round I ended up doing the same sentence or parts over and over again because something was always missing. It actually slowed me down, especially if I left a blank or question mark and then the answer ended up changing the whole sentence..... Plus, you never really trust your first copy if it is just done on the fly, so to speak, so you are essentially doing the first step over again anyways.....

Now I am very diligent and thorough from the beginning, and I research all the unknowns. Questionable items (ex. two words might fit) might be included in capital letters or something that makes them stand out. I try to never leave anything until later (ex. making sure terms are always consistent).

This way your first copy takes a bit longer, but you already have a good copy which you just need to proofread and polish, rather than translate all over again, in effect.

Having said that, everyone is different. I would try different approaches and see what works for you!

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Satu Ilva  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:22
English to Finnish
+ ...
If in doubt, read ahead... Aug 21, 2007

I work similarly - I try to make my first version as good as possible and stop to do research, but if there is a problem with a term or understanding something that stops me for a long time, I tend to leave it and carry on, because I've found that often when you read ahead in the text, the problem is resolved by what comes after. If I then find a solution later, I will go back and correct the original problem spot. And even if I don't find a direct solution, having read the whole text I may be in a better place to understand what is meant in that bit or what term might be the most suitable.

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bohy  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:22
English to French
+ ...
two steps... Aug 21, 2007

I go from the beginning to the end, never skipping text. Sometimes, I have to stop for a loooong time for researching (Web or others). I use a speech recognition tool, so I have to think first about all the sentence, then dictate it at normal speech speed (this is something I don't do again when proofreading). On the way, I write informal notes to remember terminology that I want to alter, errors that I will have to correct, etc.
Then I proofread carefully everything (very important with speech recognition, which can introduce something totally out of context)
After, I make a certain number of quick global searches to make sure that I made all the corrections that I specified in my notes.
With or without CAT tools, I work about the same.

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The Misha
Local time: 14:22
Russian to English
+ ...
I don't work this way either Aug 21, 2007

No, I don't work the same way. SImilar to Brigitte Hamilton, I produce a fairly clean copy on the first "pass".

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Mulyadi Subali  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:22
English to Indonesian
+ ...
the time factor Aug 21, 2007

irishpolyglot wrote:

1. Translate the entire document in one swoop
2. Go through each of those marked points, researching online and in dictionaries how to best translate it and replace them.
3. Very carefully read (and re-read) the entire document to make sure that it sounds natural and is the best possible translation

sounds nice if time is not a constraint...

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United States
Local time: 13:22
English to Russian
+ ...
Somewhat different Aug 21, 2007

The texts must be very generic to proceed with the next sentence while having little or no idea about the meaning of the previous one. Otherwise I'd be a bit puzzled...

My policy is to find all the terms without delays. From time to time, and especially when I'm tired, I would skip polishing of some weird, poorly written or overlengthy sentences that don't come out easy in the target language and sleep on them whenever I have a chance, but I do a word-to-word draft first and mark it in yellow.

The first version should be as clean as humanly possible. It is indeed a time and labor saving approach, and the more experience you gain, the cleaner they come out.

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Hilde Granlund  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:22
English to Norwegian
+ ...
Very interesting thread, Aug 21, 2007

and I hope more people will contribute to it, especially among experienced colleagues.
I am not a trained translator either, but am thinking of sitting for the official exam in my country. Will need some studying, as it places emphasis on technical, legal and business matters.
I have some previous experience of translating medical articles, but that was many years ago.
Started again just recently, and here is how I do it:

- go through the whole thing in sequence, clarifying any doubts as I go along.
- run a spellcheck and read through it looking for inconsistensies or other mistakes.
- give it to my nitpicking husband for proofreading.

I find that even over the three months since I have started doing this again, the number of mistakes have gone down a fair bit.

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Edith Goebel  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:22
German to Danish
+ ...
Previous thread Aug 21, 2007

A discussion about the same subject:

Here Viktoria Gimbe mentioned an interesting text analysis tool.

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Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:22
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
Two different methods for different types of texts Aug 21, 2007

For less technical texts, for which style and flow are most important:

1) Translate the whole text, without leaving any term untranslated, but in some instances leaving alternate translations in place, separated by slashes (e.g. "Translate the whole/entire text/document, without leaving[...]"

2) A second pass through the translation, deciding in each case which alternate words to use.

3) Without looking at the source document, concentrate on the target text, self-editing it in order to make sure it is written in Italian to the best of my ability

4) Final checking of the translation against the original, make sure I've not missed something.

For technical texts (i.e., most of the work I do):

1) Translate the whole text, segment by segment, using a CAT tool (Trados or SDLX), without leaving any alternate terminology, and researching all terms as I encounter them.

2) If I have any reference material available (which is usually the case), I keep it open at the same time: exported Trados memories and text-based glossaries using ApSIC's XBench, things like the MS Glossaries using Funduc's S&R; if a Multiterm glossary is available, keep that open as well, together with an Italian technical dictionary on CD-Rom, another bilingual Italian dictionary in the second CD drive, as well as direct links to other references in various tabs of my browser.

3) In XBench, add a note for any term that will need to be checked during the final QA stage

4) Once the translation is completed, use XBench for final QA, to find and correct source or target inconsistencies, mismatches against a key term glossary, numeric mismatches, and also to check every segment containing one of the terms I had annotated in step 3 (and make any necessary correction)

5) Pass on the resulting translation to my editor

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Amy Duncan  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:22
Portuguese to English
+ ...
My "method" Aug 21, 2007

First of all, I never print out anything, and never use a CAT tool, unless an agency requests it.

When a job arrives via e-mail, I download it and save it into a specific folder called JOBS in My Documents/Translations (I have numerous folders for the various companies and clients I work for).

Then I do a word count of source words, and save that as well.

I usually don't read a job all the way through, unless it seems necessary. The first thing I do when starting to translate is open the file, highlight it and paste it into the same document, so I have duplicates of the file, separated by the word "copy."

Then I translate the top one, eliminating the source words as I go along. I do research as I work, and if something seems really tough and I'm not getting anywhere, I ask the colleagues here at ProZ, and I highlight the term(s)/phrase(s) for later reference.

When I'm finished, I do a spell check, and then do a split screen so I can check my work against the original. When I'm all done and satisfied that it's correct, I delete the original and send the file back to whoever sent it to me.

After its sent, I move it into a folder entitled OLD JOBS. That way it's out of the way, but I can refer to it if I need to.

When translating PDFs or JPGs, etc., I open a Word file, reduce it to half size, and place it on top of the PDF or image. I have a PDF converter program, but it's very difficult to translate in it because of format problems. I find my "layer" method very easy and convenient.

I'm going to start using word recognition software in a few months, and am really looking forward to it.


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xxxNicky Jane
Local time: 20:22
Dutch to English
Polish hard copy only! Aug 22, 2007

I've been a translator for many years but most definitely cannot check or edit my own work on screen! I do a fairly accurate translation the first time round, researching about 80% of the 'problems' as I go along. I then 'polish' the text with a nice red pen, making changes to my document printed out in double spacing!

Nicky Jane

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Manuel Aburto M
Local time: 12:22
English to Spanish
+ ...
To some extent, almost all of us work in the same manner! Aug 23, 2007

I would dare to say that the way I translate is a combination of several of your methods:

1. Most o the documents I translate are received via email, so once I download it/them, I save it/them in a specific folder -I have a folder for each client -

2. Then, If the doc. requires it, I read it in order to find terms unfamiliar to me, most of the time I use specific dictionaries (Civil Engineering, Banking & Management, Legal, etc) otherwise I proceed with the translation.

3. When I am done I proofread the documento. By proofreading the doc. I mean I look for grammar or so related errors.

4. As I finish the proofreading, I edict it. In this process I replace general terms with more technical terms.

5. I read the document as if I were a native speaker of the target language. In the event that any change is required I do it.

Hope it works.



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Rosanna Palermo  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:22
Member (2006)
Italian to English

I read and highlight first Aug 25, 2007


My teacher taught me this method about 25 years ago and it works for me

1. read everything first,
2. highlight dubious phrases or terms, then
3. do the research,
4. translate.
5. Proofread
6. implement any necessary changes
7. spellcheck

What I found is that this forces me to read the whole text very attentively, which in turn makes it easier to spot areas that may be common throughout - and sometimes later in the text an explanation is found for some of the dubious items.

This may seem slow but actually speeds up the process for me.

Each text is different, some writing styles are absurd in their own language - never mind translating them - so by the time I am done reading everything through I have a better sense of the style and consequently the flow of the text.

I own but hardly ever use wordfast.

There is an inherent trap in using TM's and that is that one can become so dependent upon them that although the sense of the phrase may be close the actual original meaning become distorted or lost.
could be a garden hose fitting
could be the fit of a pair of pants
or could mean that something is proper, and right for the occasion
and so on so forth.

The other and much more real to me problem that I have with this tool is that - probably due to my own lack of use and ignorance thereof - I do not seem to be able to maintain the original format of the document which, per se, drives me crazy. much for my two cents. Let me know that you think after you try it.

rfmoon (Rosy)

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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:22
German to English
+ ...
3-step translation approach? Aug 25, 2007

Amy Duncan wrote:

(...) never use a CAT tool (...)

The first thing I do when starting to translate is open the file, highlight it and paste it into the same document, so I have duplicates of the file, separated by the word "copy."

Then I translate the top one, eliminating the source words as I go along.


(...) and then do a split screen so I can check my work against the original.

In fact, there are some similiarities between your working method and using a CAT.


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