The web is a great resource for translators. If you combine efficient search techniques with a critical approach, you’ll improve both the speed and the quality of your translations. As a translator, you can use the web:
- To see if the translation for a term is appropriate. There can be some trial and error involved here.
Example: You know the translation of “contraction” and the translation of “crack,” and you want to check if your guess for the translation of “contraction crack” is correct.
- To find out what a term, new word or expression means. This is especially useful for technical terms or difficult content you’re not familiar with.
You encounter the term “hard reset” for the first time. You can tell it’s not the same as “reset,” so you want to know what the difference is between the two.
You come across the word “jetiquette” in a translation and want to find out what it means.
- To get translation ideas for tricky words, expressions or idioms. This is especially useful for content which allows for some creativity.
Example: You are translating a blog post with words such as “cringe” or “gig workers”. You know the meaning but don’t know how to translate them.
- To find the best collocations. This is especially useful when you are translating into a language that’s not your native language.
Examples: You want to know if it should be “impact in” or “impact on.”
- To search for a visual representation of a technical translation. Image searches allow you to see the schematics, view or configuration of an object, which is especially useful when translating, for example, installation instructions.
Example: You’re translating a set of installation instructions for a solar panel, so you conduct an image search for “solar panel schematics” to know what the different elements look like and how they are arranged.
Next are some handy tips to make the most out of Google searches and to ensure you can refine your search results to achieve your search goals (like the ones above).
Google search tips
Note: Google is constantly improving and updating their offering, including the search feature. As of April 2022, the following information is correct:
- Put the expression you’re searching for in quotes to search it exactly as it is:
"self-clinching fastener" will return results where this exact term appears.
- The wildcard (*) replaces any number of words. Use it in combination with the quotes for when you don’t remember or don’t know a part of the translation, or want to see available options (for languages that use prepositions, it’s very useful to see which one should be used):
“easy * caps” will return results like "easy-pull caps" and “easy removal caps”
In the previous example, note how the “-” between “easy” and “pull” was ignored. Punctuation signs are generally ignored by Google, unless they’re part of the search commands described here).
- Use a dash (-) to exclude terms from your search. This can be useful when looking for one specific meaning of a word with multiple meanings. Make sure there’s no whitespace between the dash and the word:
saddle -horse will return all pages that have saddle but not horse
bark -dog will return all pages that have bark but not dog.
- Use site: to search within a specific site. Again, make sure there’s no whitespace between site: and the actual site or it won’t work.
screwdriver site:essentra.com will return all URLs with the word screwdriver within essentra.com
Assessing the accuracy and reliability of the results you get
The above recommendations will likely give you a bunch of results, but it’s up to you to verify how accurate and reliable they are. Here are some helpful tips to do so:
- You won’t always find an authoritative site (i.e. the client site or a high-quality terminological repository) that defines or translates what you’re looking for. You may also be struggling to decide between two options for a translation. In these cases, frequency of results is a good indicator of the validity of the expression or term. Bear in mind that the more specialized the term, the fewer results you’ll get.
- In addition to frequency of results, the URL of the result itself can give clues as to the reliability of the translation:
- Prioritize results showing in trusted, in-domain sites. These can be the client’s site itself, another site in the same domain, or an official linguistic bank like Termium or IATE. Prioritize the main site over subsites or help centers associated with the main site: sometimes subsites are user-generated or machine-translated.
- Linguee aggregates translations from various sources, and some are more likely to be reliable than others. For example, the translation of criminal prosecution that appears in a Linguee result coming from eur-lex.europa.eu will likely be more reliable than one coming from a translated version of a private lawyer practice’s website. Linguee is a great resource for specialized terminology, especially in the domains that international institutions like the EU or the UN work with (e.g economic, agriculture, finance), since it aggregates their high quality translations, but in other domains the results may require a more critical approach.
- Watch out for the locale of the page when looking up expressions or terminology. For example, If you’re looking for a translation in European Spanish for “let the cat out of the bag,” a web with “es” in the top level domain (e.g., www.acme.es) is likely to be more appropriate than one with “cl” or “mx.” This is especially important in the case of common expressions or idioms, which greatly vary from country to country or even region to region. However, the more specialized a term is, the less regional variation you will find. That said, some regions/countries are more prone to incorporate foreign words and phrases, and that also can apply to specialized terminology.