Although we, translation professionals, master the languages we work with, it is no wonder that, on certain occasions, some texts seem very unfamiliar. We are not specialist in all the fields nor master all registers. Occasionally, that first feeling arising when facing a heavy-going text which forces us to look up word after word traps us, and sometimes it is really difficult to keep calm and meet strict quality standards. Very likely, this burdensome beginning will get better as we progress through the text; we may have already caught the tone and type of language. Even in more general texts we might stop from time to time to research. It is OK. We must make sure everything is in the right place, even the smallest details. Sometimes we get overconfident and take things for granted when they are not as we perceive them at first sight; that is not acceptable! Even if a tiny doubt arises, we must research.
No doubt it is easier to warn than to provide solutions, so let´s try to go over some procedures that work well for me regarding three basic tools:
- La fundéu. As RAE could not address all the doubts arising from the use of Spanish language, they have commissioned these functions to La fundeu (Fundación del Español Urgente). There are many consults already solved on their webpage, but in the unlikely case yours has never been asked you can always consult them and your question will be answered shortly.
- Linguee is a website that pairs original texts with their translations and through a search engine (by word, expression, sentence etc.) shows you text extracts containing them and the way these have been translated. Not everything is translated professionally, and even if all the appropriate means have been employed errors can happen (we are human!). I use it mainly as guidance, to get some ideas about possible linguistic solutions which I then research into later. If on the left margin we find a warning symbol, this translation will not be very reliable. On the contrary, europa.eu and eur-lex.europa.eu are the most reliable sources, they hardly never get wrong. In such cases I just check on Google if the term matches the option found.
- Google is an overloaded source of wisdom in need of some filtering. We must discern which are official sources and consequently, reliable ones. Also, using Booleans in the search makes work easier as it reduces the number of results. These are special characters that add rules to the search. The most common ones are the quotes (“…”) when we want to find that exact combination of words and in the same order, or ext.:, which allows you to filter by extension (type of document). For instance, for technically demanding documents I highly recommend looking for pdf documents, in addition to numerous specific glossaries that you can find with this extension. You may take longer to find the term in question but, as these are very detailed documents, they help you become acquainted with the vocabulary and sort out doubts that may arise later. On the other hand, you can also compare terms and images: introduce the term in both languages on Google and observe whether the definitions provided match, and same with images, especially for tangible concepts: objects, plants, animals, machinery, materials etc.
These are transversal strategies, but on most of the occasions they are not enough. We will need to avail ourselves of specific glossaries, technical and general dictionaries online or physical ones (Word reference as a bilingual dictionary and Merriam Weber as an English dictionary are my favourites), specialised resources online (IATE for legal, Cosnauta for medical, Microsoft term search for IT or even the term search of ProZ). But as usual, on top of that all, our common sense must prevail.