7 Tools For Translators

Not everyone who speaks another language, or is bilingual, can be a translator. There is a lot more to translation than translating word-for-word; you need to embrace the culture and really understand the tone, register, setting, target audience and be a master of your own native language and continuously improve your level.
Not too many requirements, then!

Translation is also massively overlooked by those who do not speak other languages and particularly underestimated by companies. Before you start translation, you need to get your fluency to a certain level and be at C2 level, be able to throw around verbs correctly and never ponder too much about prepositions or genders (one day!).

As a linguist, I am sure you’d nodding right now if anyone has ever asked you to translate “just 20 pages”.

Translators today are up against millions of others who will do the same work for less than you’ll expect to take. Everyone wants work done fast, fast, fast and often quality suffers in order to meet tight deadlines.

Starting out as a translator

A lot of people who studied Translation as a bachelor degree or Linguistics as Master’s degree finished their studies and simply did not know where to start out as a freelance or a in-house translator.

I tend to do translations alongside my marketing tasks – they tend to be small enough to manage luckily. So, I will bring you some tips based on knowledge from working in a translation department, primarily helping with technical translations.

Tools for Translators

CAT Tools

CAT (computer aided translation) tools are essential; especially if you’re going to be anywhere near professional, but also because it will facilitate your work, speed up your pace and make your life easier. Many jobs that professional translators take on are virtually impossible without a CAT tool. You’ve definitely got your foot in the door if you’re using CAT tools.

The software is only ever as good as you are; sometimes it can take a while to find one that suits you, one you like to use. I have previously used AcrossOmega T and SDL Trados all of which can be great tools for translators.

I am still trying to find out which one I like best, which one I can easily learn how to use so I can slowly build up the translation memory such as on MemoQ.

An online dictionary

When I was studying French at university, lecturers told us to by huge dictionaries. I only ever had a medium-sized one and quickly moved onto online ones such as LeoLaroussePons, as I find online ones easier and faster to use. It is 2017, after all.

Other than the obvious if you don’t know how to say a word, I always like using dictionaries to check genders and to find synonyms. I particularly like Linguee where you can learn words in context, you just have to watch out that you’re not using it incorrectly. A thesaurus is also great to vary your vocabulary, learn new words and also sound more fluent.

Moveable keyboard, Dual screens

With technology being the bane of our lives yet wonderfully improving it, it is essential to get the right seating position to save your back.

Not only should you be doing back exercises daily, you should ensure you have your screen eye height, and preferably at least two screens to maximise efficiency. Save your wrists and your colleague’s ears by using a silent (not a 2003 Dell one), separate keyboard.

Cups of tea

I may be not living in the UK, but a good cup of tea is always nice.


ProZ is an online community for translators to exchange ideas, advice and also a platform to allow companies to find certified translators, known as the Blue Board. It is an excellent and even indispensable tool for translators. Sort of how marketers should read Moz for SEO tips, ProZ.com is a translators’ go-to information source and useful tool.

Other things it offers include: a translation dictionary, the KudoZ Term Network where you can exchange and receive term translations, discounts on SDL Trados, details about conferences and events and other forum groups for discussion.

Email access

You will be bouncing emails back and forth if the writer is not as gifted as their title may sound. Hey, we’re all just blaggingit and can all write things which don’t make sense.

One of the most important tools for translators is access to online material.
It’s important to read parallel texts, read around the subject to ensure you get an understand of the topic, both sides of the argument (if applicable) and really take advantage of what the internet has to offer.
Look at newspapers, read opinions; watch videos, check relevant books that you can cross-reference in order to get the jargon you need, decide on the register (high or low?), and set the tone of voice that is appropriate for the target audience.

If you feel like you could potentially have all of those but the one you really have for certain is the internet access, the for the rest of us we can now rely on a japanese creation called Logbar. As I understand it is an offline instant translation machine sort of like a dictophone you can carry on you. I can only imagine what fun that is, not that machines are replacing us or anything… or are they?

Thanks to G. Price, a professional freelance translator for his tips on this subject.

What tends to help you when you’ve got to sift your way through a translation? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook.

* incase you’re wondering what ‘blagging it‘ means, this is what the dictionary says:

To blag (verb; British, informal):
To explain something in a clever way to obtain something using persuasion or deception.

Explanation: we often use this informally to explain actions that we are trying to get away with. Or that everyone is life is just ‘winging it’: you get asked to do a presentation and you manage to ‘blag it’ and still sound smart by making things up on the spot.

Finnuala Quinn