Do you think that quality translations can be done just like that, without having any unique qualities, without practicing the target language? Many would say they wish it would be so.

Let’s concentrate today on what is an excellent translator and how to motivate oneself to turn into a good one.

A good translator has an in-depth knowledge of his/her mother tongue

All recommendations for translators all over the world start with this advice: the quality of a translator’s work depends on how well he/she knows his/her mother tongue, whether it is the source language or the target language. The language system is a living organism that evolves and grows differently according to the group which uses it. Getting the highest mark in mother tongue subject is a good start, but this is not enough. Staying connected to the continuous development of the mother tongue helps you render the texts fluently, coherently and using the right terms. The translator should be the first person who finds out that an old spelling rule has been changed; he/she should have in-depth knowledge about the meanings, usage, and spelling of neologisms and continuously improve his/her vocabulary.

A good translator searches the right places

According to the rules, a good translator does not necessarily have to be… a dictionary. Even if you are widely experienced in a particular field, and you do not need to search for a specific term, you will always come across new phrases or terms which will challenge your “hunting” skills. Be sure you use the best dictionaries; the multitude of online resources is not necessarily helpful. Online dictionaries, although at hand, spread errors very quickly.

A good translator makes a correct self-evaluation

Do not make any promise before ensuring you can meet all your client’s requirements. You must always remember that only a few clients have the necessary experience and knowledge to understand all the implications of a translation project. Each time you are asked to do impossible things, provide explanations, and you might make yourself understood!

A good translator chooses a specialization relevant to them

Something appropriate to their academic training, professional experience and / or hobbies and interests (apparently, all three is a brilliant combination!). Specialisation is incredibly essential in translation. Why? Nobody can be an expert in everything, but as a translator, you are expected to be an expert in translating each individual text you translate. If the texts are on related topics, you will have less vocabulary to learn each time. Your understanding of the field will also grow, improving your natural ability to perform a “logic check” on your translated text – i.e., you can tell whether a text works logically, not just linguistically. Put simply, specialist translators are better translators.

When choosing your specialization, think first about your interests – as that is what you will enjoy, but then also seriously consider whether you have academic, professional or other relevant experience to back that up.

A good translator proofreads his/her work

It is evident that all translators should proofread their work; however, you will always find this rule inserted between all kinds of regulations applicable to a good translator. Many of the translation projects are handled in a hurry, leaving no time to check the details. A text full of mistranslations sent to your client will probably put an end to your collaboration. Not to mention that every translation is specific to you and builds your name in this field.

A good translator possesses computer skills

Basic computer skills are a must in this job, while advanced computer skills are a very important bonus. A translator spends all day at a computer and, if freelance, will need to be capable of learning how to meet and overcome new challenges and problems on a regular basis.

Typing speed is also very significant.

Online research skills are incredibly valuable – for everything from checking for the most common term by comparing hits for set phrases on, to researching a field or finding appropriate references and glossaries.

A good translator also has access to the best resources to assist them in their work

That’s why a stable, fast internet connection is vital, as well as general and specialist bilingual and monolingual dictionaries, style guides, computer software and hardware.

Where computer software and hardware are concerned, remember the advantages of computer skills – the best and most appropriate software and hardware is not always the most expensive. Use some research skills to help you make your choices. Excellent, efficient, reliable software and hardware can make your task a lot quicker and easier.

A good translator is in a constant search for development

No matter how experienced you are, from time to time you will be faced with new, challenging, or unfamiliar terms and expressions.

In order to be fully prepared you should be updated with the latest tools, methods, and translation techniques.

Moreover, a good translator is a good reader and a good writer. And you can’t be a good writer without being a voracious reader first. Read with purpose.

A good translator has a sense of context and target audience, appropriate tone, and level.  

What is more, a good translator has to possess a great sense of cultural particularity.

To be honest, so much can be said about an ideal translator. But what we believe is crucial,  what makes a person real specialist is the fact that the work they do makes them happy and they love what they are doing.

A good translator has an extensive target language palette to choose from: synonyms that are not interchangeable, a sense of rhythm that dictates word choices as much as the source word does, a feeling of what the audience expects to read and when that expectation is supposed to be disrupted.

To do a good translation, you, the translator, need to identify the subtleties of the text to be translated to render them in the target language.