Research - What is a translator?
A translator is a guy/gal doing translations. Well. That's short enough, and that's true too.
DONE. End of article ;)
Actually, there is more to it then
you would think at first glance. Translation is not merely a language
issue. It consists of understanding the source document and relaying
its meaning in the target language.
It is often overlooked that language is only but a small part of understanding a document. Take car documentation, for instance. Even in your language, if you don't know how cars work, you won't understand much.
Further, one has to be able to relay that understanding in such a way that people feel as if they were reading an original document. For a car manual, that means the translation should sound like a car manual written up by a technical writer of that target language.
As you certainly see, there is more to translations then just "speaking both languages". A whole lot more.
However, does it mean a translator should know everything? Like everyone else I know of, a translator is not omniscient. He doesn't know everything there is to know about everything, and while obviously one should not undertake a translation without knowing the subject matter, there are very few chances for a translator to know all about your documents in advance.
Thus the importance of research. Knowing how, what, and where to search are perhaps the most important skills of a translator. A large part of a translator's job consists of research. Dictionary, terminology resources, official web sites, usenets, Search Engines... Your typical technical translator is a half linguist, half scientist, half businessman and half researcher... (math is not a key requisite, obviously.)
You want to keep your translators happy and get the best quality? It's not only a question of bottom-line. Provide as much relevant information as possible, including past translations. If possible, even set up a direct line to one of your inhouse techies. Quality will go up, and speed may increase as well.
I compiled a good number of valuable resources, some common, some more obscure, in the link section of this site, and when time allows, this web site will also feature a few articles on how to conduct effective terminology researches.
If you find it useful or if you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.