Translation Tips: Setting up Your Surroundings, Learning How to Type, Dividing up the Screen, Using Translation Memory Tools
Once you have positioned yourself properly, now look around you at your immediate settings. I like to have pleasant pictures on the walls, classical music drifting in the background, lots of plants all around me, and one of my favourite... an aquarium!
Some people call it electro smog, but between the fan of a desktop computer, your handy mobile phone with the bluetooth running, printer clicking in the background, all your various electrical appliances and the radiation blaring at you from the screen you are staring at, our bodies are bombarded by all sorts of electrical waves of different frequencies. For this I find it is good to get away for the weekend, into nature, and away from all this. I was surprised to notice the difference once I cam back into the city. You need to rest your body from all this constant radiation, but to me it seemed that a large aquarium would suck up a lot of the radiation in the office. Between the classical music, plants and the aquarium next to me, there seemed to be a marked difference from when the office was empty and humming away to the sound of appliances alone. And besides, staring at fish in their placid little universe is a nice break from the drone of hours of reading boring legal contract.
I find a nice big aquarium sucks up a lot of electrosmog and makes for a pleasant, peaceful working environment. And heck, why not cheer up your workstation even more? I got a two litre plastic bottle, cut a horizontal slash near the bottom, pushed that inwards above the cut, cut a short section of the inner cardboard cylinder of the fax paper roll, cut a wedge into it and mounted that onto the bottom part of my cut into the plastic bottle.
What on earth for, you might ask? Well, with the cardboard roll mounted onto the plastic cut, it keeps the plastic above the cut bent inwards, and the other end of the roll jutting out horizontally from the plastic bottle offers a nice little stand for a tweety bird. Yes, fill up your bottle with some cheap sun flower seeds with shell, hang your bottle on a string next to your window, and give the birdies time to discover it. I once lived in a house next to a large forest, and within about four months I must have had 200 birdies tweeting away in my garden, one visiting every five seconds, swooping in to land on my little bird feeder and sending it spinning around and around. It would give us some cheery chirps before flying away, giving room for the next birdy. Between that and the aquarium, truly made the translations a much more cheery and joyful experience. Some documents can get truly boring, trust me.
For those with a laptop, you may like to take advantage of its mobility to occasionally change your environment, translating at your cottage, your friend's cottage, the local park, or a beach. Tips for translating outside you will find below.
Learn How to Type
I have one monster translator who can translate a hundred pages over a weekend with only three fingers. Truly amazing, but why limit yourself? I was a few finger wonder myself for a very long time, but just imagine the difference between that and not even having to look at your fingers or the computer monitor while you type. I started from a three finger wonder, always alternating between looking at the computer monitor, then my fingers, then straining my neck over the paper document, sliding that little rock paper weight to keep my place on the page and accidentally not skip an entire paragraph, which sometimes happened. Always sliding that rock, fidgeting between this and that, until I evolved into that amazing murky world where one reads the source text, starts formulating the differently structured sentence in the target language, while the fingers blaze away unconsciously. The brain is a truly amazing devise. But to get to this level, you need to train your fingers to do the unconscious. For this you need to tell your fingers where to go every time you want to punch in a particular letter. With the three finger approach, you need to move your entire hand and watch where your fingers go, but with the ten finger approach, each finger has its allotted letters, and your palms are stagnant on one single point. If you are a three finger wonder, I can guarantee you that you will slow down markedly in the beginning, and it will take you a few months to get back to the speed you are used to. Yes, this sucks, but it is a worthwhile investment if you plan to translate for a year or more.
So get prepared for a potential drop in income, and commit yourself to the transition. It does not make sense to train your fingers only occasionally, but you start, commit yourself to the transition, so that it is as fast as possible. Otherwise you are just wasting your time.
So, very simply, place your eight index fingers on the middle row so that your left pinky is on the A and your right pinky is on the key one to the right of the L key. The G and H keys should therefore remain uncovered. Now, whenever you type, make sure to always use the finger which should logically go there. The closest, most comfortable, and logical choice. For example, I would use my right pinky finger for the P. And force yourself to do the same with numbers. It will be painful and annoying in the beginning, but if you have enough work, within a few months you should be back to normal, and then it will only get faster and faster, as it becomes fully unconscious.
Dividing up the Screen
If your source material comes in electronic format, such as a .pdf, other image file, or Word file, as opposed to a printed piece of paper, you will want to learn how to divide up your monitor. Some people like to print out their electronic files, but I consider this a waste of paper and entirely unnecessary.
If you will be working in a different program that the one you received (for example, a .pdf file opens in Adobe Acrobat and you might be typing your translation into a Word file), you will want to position your two programs so that you can view them both comfortably. If you have a very large monitor or two of them at the same time using several computer monitors, you could place the programs next to one another. But I like to work on a small light laptop, with lots of batteries so that I can go out into nature, and I find it perfectly acceptable to work on such a small screen by having the two programs positioned one above the other. That is the one great advantage of windows, that concept which Bill Gates took from Macintosh and brought it to the archaic world of Dos. On the top right hand corner of each program (even file), you will see three little icons
The left one minimizes your program or file (puts it out of view and sends it to your task bar at the bottom of your screen), the second one maximizes it so that it takes up the entire screen, or allows you to resize the program and position it where you want to. The last X closes the program or file.
In this case you see two sets of these icons, the top row being for the program, and the second row for the file embedded within it.
So I like to position the source document so that it covers the top half of the computer monitor, and the target (often Word) so that it covers the bottom half of the monitor. You can push the upper window high up so that the bar is partially covered, and push the bottom window down so some unimportant functions are not visible. Within each program you can remove from view all toolbars you will not need, to maximize the viewable document within each program. At the middle horizontal section, the programs can overlap a bit, covering up parts you do not need. Play around with this for a while and I find it no problem to translate with both documents visible on my little laptop monitor.
To jump between the two programs, simply alt tab it, by holding down the ALT key, then pressing TAB once. Or press the TAB key enough time until you get to the program you want. Once you get to the program once, pressing alt tab again gets you back to the previous program. In this manner you can quickly jump back and forth between the two programs without depending on the mouse, which will only slow you down.
When in either of the windows, the up or down arrow should be enough to navigate in the document. Or some of the Word shortcut keys could help with this.
If you are translating within the same program, like Word, sometimes it happens that you view one file while translating into another. So you can divide up your "panes" in Word in the same manner, so that one file takes up the top half of the computer monitor while another the bottom half. You can also customize your Word to create a shortcut key to jump between one file and another, by going to Tools > Customize > Keyboard icon > category "Windows and Help" > Next Window. Once that is selected, put your cursor into the "Press new shortcut key" box and select your shortcut combination (I like to use two: ALT F1 and ALT `) and press Assign. You can program your Word in many ways like this, and customize it in general, as explained later.
So make sure you set everything up for yourself and learn shortcut keys, not automatically always depending on your mouse, because every little corner you cut will eventually add up to more and more money.
Translation Memory Tools
And speaking of cutting corners, there are many programs out there to help you translate and speed up your work. Whether you speed up your work by learning how to type properly, memorize shortcut keys, modify your toolbars, or use software to help you with your translations, every little corner that you cut to make your work faster will, yes, TRANSLATE into money, money, money! And translation memory (TM) tools can save/make you a lot of money indeed. But only if you find yourself repeating yourself a lot, such as with contract, legal documents, or specific technical documentation. Imagine finding yourself translating a similar phrase over and over again, like "lessor agrees to pay lessee by the end of the month". But imagine translating this phrase ONCE, and every time you come across the phrase in the future, the program already offers it for you, so you do not have to type it. And imagine that 80% of a 100 page document is already translated for you, so that you get paid the full price but only have to translate 20% of it, with some extra work to connect the loose ends and pretranslated phrases? So this all depends on the type of work you regularly get, and if your customer has not clued in on TM yet. There are many TM tools out there and I will try to give a description about them later. They can get pretty pricey, but can pay off. So you should consider this as an option, and because they can get pretty pricey, weigh and research this issue carefully.
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Published - July 2009
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