Amateur Translation: My Experience (And Some Tips)

In several ways, language is the backbone of civilization, not only because it allows us to organize our thoughts and share them with the world but because by doing so we took one of our first steps towards our shared humanity. Language, as a way of communication, is present in everything. However, there has always been a setback towards a “universal humanity” which goes beyond the thought lines: language disparity. Whether it be variations within a same language or a more obvious discordance between tounges, getting over that barrier is a phenomenon as old as humanity and oral expression itself. Translation is a noble activity; it has made possible a huge part of the Modern World. Everything, from Universal Literature to the sweet global commerce, gets benefits from translation. As it was at the beginning, the Digital Age let everyone who knows a little bit of another language to take part of this millenary tradition (which has its own detractors, but that’s a topic for another post). Today I want to share some of my experience in amateur translation.

Before we get started, I want to put some context. I started doing this because, at that time, it was really hard to find useful/updated information online about chiptune in Spanish. You could say: “But, Pixel Guy, you could ask your local chiptuners, why you didn’t do that?” Well, dear reader, sometimes things are not that easy. In my country (like everywhere else I guess), you have luck if you live in a big city; you will usually have at least one or two chip people around you and one or two on-site curses a year in that places. Unfortunately, I don’t live in a big city, so my only chance to learn something was the Internet. “Oh, so you asked your local chiptuners stuff through the Internet”. Again, it’s not that easy, at least not for someone like me in a scene like that.

So, what did I do? Well, I had to learn English at the same time I was trying to make my way through all the new and exciting information I found. It was madness, but I’ll do it again. Those were the busiest two years of my life until now, but, after all the time I spent in the learning of new skills, I saw an opportunity and asked for a space to translate a music theory column. I thought there should be more people who, like me, have troubles with certain social situations and/or don’t have someone to guide them – but I was also conscious that not everyone has the time or the opportunities to learn another language, so I decided to do something about it. The opportunity was granted immediately despite my poor usage of the English language (I remember I got an answer in like fifteen minutes). Until today, I can’t thank Mr. Hood enough for all the trust he had me and to him and all the ChipWIN Blog Staff for all the things they taught me. The rest is history and is here where the advice begins.

Disclaimer: I’m not a professional translator, so take evcerything I say as my experience and with a grain of salt.

The only real suggestion I can give you is to enjoy what you do. If you do so, you will be able to find your passion through it and that will push you to an unstoppable vortex of progress. Of course, this could be a romantic/simplistic approach, but I’ve found it’s true. Regarding the technical aspects, I think there are three basic things an amateur translator needs: a computer with a text processor, a connection to Internet, and knowledge of their source and target language. The hardest one to get is the last one. Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to be a linguist to translate. In a field that is subject of many disastrous changes given thanks to minimal details, a policy of ‘Live and Learn’ is a practice that even pros bear in mind.

However, acknowledge the grammar of your target language, having a good orthography, and some editing expertise won’t hurt you. Those are things you will learn over time anyway, but it would help to make your process smoother. Another thing that might seem pretty obvious is to read as much as you can in your source language. Find a little space in your daily life and read an article, the news, or even a Tweet – talking to native speakers helps a lot too. Thus you will have access to cultural background, which will result in more natural texts.

While translating, there will be times in which you’ll be required to learn about new things to make a coherent work. You will have to make decisions, what and what not to translate. When this happens, please don’t be afraid of expanding your knowledge! Ask a friend, read the manual, watch a video, search in Google, do whatever you think it’s necessary to make the right choice. Before I started doing this, I knew nothing about LSDj and programming, amongst many other things. I’m certainly not an expert, but I’ve learned a few tricks.

Lastly, I want to recommend you some tools I use. First things first: a dictionary, you don’t even need a physical copy. Most of the big dictionaries are online these days, pick the one that fits better your needs. Usually, online dictionaries offer example phrases and idioms, just in case you need an equivalent or a little bit of context. This kind of resources are really useful. I suggest linguee, Reverso Context, and Weblio. Finally, sometimes, especially on your first translations, you will need some help to find your path through a hard text. Don’t be ashamed to rely on technology to clear your thoughts about a sentence every once in a while if you feel you need it. My first option has been DeepL for almost two years now. These go without mention, but stay hydrated, take little rests when need it, and try to set and meet your own quality standards.

The past two years have been full of learning and I could not be more satisfied with what I’ve done. If I helped at least one person, I’m happy about that. Fortunately, there are some emerging efforts to educate people in the Spanish speaking community and, even when I’m not related to them, my heart is happy. Access to information should be universal and easy-to-access. That’s why, if you feel like it, you should give the amateur translation a shot!

I hope you find this helpful, or at least entertaining. Thank you for reading. See you next time!

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