Approaching new subjects

Approaching new subjects

I adore opening my inbox and seeing that I have a new job from my very favourite client, a major bridal fashion company. I have been translating for this company for over a decade and I find real pleasure in the work. I know all the vocabulary by heart, although I have an enormous term base and a fantastic memory to work with. It is a creative outlet for me to translate their blogs, magazines and descriptions of the glamorous products while I drool over the photographs.

However, for every super job like that, I have to tackle a slew of others which I do not receive with the same degree of relish. Of course, if I did not accept these more difficult jobs then I would not make enough money to eat. For example, with a Law degree I am more than qualified to take on legal translations, but as every translator knows, not all legal documents are created equal. However knowledgeable and experienced you may be, you are still going to come across areas of law that are completely ‘foreign’ to you. In the last two weeks, for example, I have had to become an expert in the Convention on the Contract for the International Carriage of Goods by Road, the special tax scheme applicable to recreational vessels and sugar import regulations, to name just three.

Documents such as pleadings, judgements and writs are full of potential pitfalls. There seem to be so many types of documents and courts without an exact translation in English. The court system is different and therefore there are not always equivalent words terms which makes for doubt and uncertainty.

My first step is to create a term base, because I never want to look anything up more than once (if I can help it). Termbases help me to achieve this. I uses some termbases for a lot of projects, updating them as I go. I have termbases on different topics such as ceramic manufacturing, menu items and fashion terms. I also have one containing official translations of laws and regulations that I open every time I work on something vaguely legal. It is so useful.

Of course, it is a good idea to search for well-written and well-translated documents that you can use as a source of inspiration and vocabulary. One of the documents in my ‘for reference’ folder is called ‘fantastic power of attorney’. It contains brilliant translations of numerous boiler-plate clauses found in powers of attorney and I love it! Another way of improving the quality of your output is to immerse yourself in the subject matter in question. For example I am about to start translating a magazine on economics, so I have been sure to watch the financial reports on the news channels every day and I am trying to absorb the register and vocabulary they use so I can apply it to my own work.

The truth is that if you want to be a success you have to keep pushing the boundaries and forcing yourself to be a better and more versatile translator. You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve. I have had an important customer in the aerospace industry for a long time now. When I translated the first few documents I didn’t know a horizontal tail plane from a wing skin but now I could give you a talk on Lean manufacturing. Keep learning, keep studying and finding the world interesting. Everything will come in useful at some time and your learnedness will shine though in your work. Happy translating!


Juliet Allaway

Written by editor