Improving Your Command of Both Source and Target Languages
An experienced, professional translator has great command of both their source and target languages.
An experienced, professional translator has great command of both their source and target languages. The most effective way for a translator to accomplish this is to increase their vocabulary, focusing on the words they encounter in their translation projects.
Take careful note of, and make a list of every word you’re uncertain about, or words that you’re just not 100% sure of when you’re translating something. These are the words that you know what they mean, or perhaps you’re not entirely sure what they mean, but they’re words you don’t know how to say the same in your target language.
Now Get Out Your Dictionaries!
Use your dictionaries to learn about each one of these words on your list: you’ll need a good monolingual dictionary in your source language, and a bilingual dictionary for your source and target languages. Perhaps even better, you could use both paper and online source and bilingual dictionaries!
Now, with each word you need to check the dictionary entries and read the entry in full – don’t only take note of the subhead closer to the suggested meaning by your context: read the entire entry, and this includes different meanings and meanings marked as obsolete. If your monolingual dictionary offers a meaning that’s not covered by your bilingual dictionary, then do your research on how that specific word and its meaning could be translated. Pay close attention to the example sentences offered in the dictionary, and work out how you might translate them
Consult Other Reference Sources
Your research shouldn’t be limited to dictionaries: you should also consult other reference works, such as encyclopedias. Check to see how your list of words are used in context in different situations. Google Book Search and Google Advanced Search are great online tools and can be very helpful when determining how the words you’re studying can be used in the real world, in documents, on webpages, and in books.
Be Thorough and Take Notes
Be very thorough with your study and keep notes of everything, because your notes could well be the starting points for further research.
Consider Each Word
Think carefully about the words you’re studying: What do they mean in your source language? What is their translation meaning in your target language? How do the meanings differ between your two languages? By this we mean, a source-language word may share a core meaning with a target-language word, but other meanings words have in one or the other languages may differ. Note how usage, connotation, and register differ between the two languages.
Continue Studying Words
Continue this work with words as much as you can and as thoroughly as you can, and it won’t be long at all before you notice that you have greatly improved your command of not only your source language, but also your native language.
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