A list of my favorite journals/publications/websites

I regularly read the following journals/publications/websites:

  • Nature (academic)
  • Science (academic)
  • Popular Science
  • Smithsonian
  • Orion
  • Scientific American
  • sciencedaily.com

I also enjoy the Best American Science & Nature Writing anthology. A new volume comes out yearly and with a different editor (and hence different opinion and selection criteria), and I always enjoy reading the article compilations on a very wide range of subjects for all interests and tastes. Truly some of the best!

Although, I never have enough time to read everything I want! So I try to divide my time and focus on the best. By exposing myself to Nature & Science articles, I am hoping to read a breadth of articles and topics and also appreciate the writing and stay on top of new and upcoming trends.

Meanwhile, Popular Science is a very gadget/technology focused publication, and a lot of their articles are very short. I consider this magazine to be entertainment more than anything, and I have a feeling a lot of the gadgets they write about are hidden advertisements in a sense. They must certainly receive some sort of income stream from writing about these different products. But again, I find it interesting to stay on top of new trends and gadgets, since I am admittedly not very tech-savvy or gadget-oriented. I don’t want to become one of those people that doesn’t know how to use a smart phone (or its equivalent) in about 20 years. Maybe I can train my brain to remain young forever ;).

Smithsonian always has a nice balance of science and culture, which I like. They have really excellent articles on conservation and archaeology every once in a while, and the writing style is less academic. I try to expose myself to different writing styles and expand beyond just academic and technical writing, because I think there is something to learn in doing so. A lot of their articles take on an in-depth journalism style.

Orion is one of my favorite publications, and it highlights very excellent nature writing. I would label it more in the realm of fiction writing and personal essays on the subject of nature, technology, and culture. They also focus on sense of place, and some of their writing takes on a descriptive or exposé bent, showcasing different places and their uniqueness. A lot of poetry, artwork, photography, and beautiful imagery are weaved between the pages, and so you also get a little bit of everything.

Scientific American is an interesting magazine because I consider it to be the most scientific of the popular science magazines. Their articles are in-depth and directed towards an educated and interested audience, and they certainly aren’t fluff either. Topics go beyond cliché conservation pieces and delve in a wide breadth of recent scientific findings, from findings on health to the science of sleep to ant sociology.

Two publications I don’t enjoy: Discover and National Geographic. Discover seems to publish a lot of what other magazines publish, several months later and with far worse writing. National Geographic is a beautiful publication and contains wonderful photography and imagery, but they might as well just convert themselves into a photo-log, since I find their topics to be extraordinarily ordinary. Interesting travel pieces, but they follow a very specific formula again, and again… and again.

From sciencedaily.com, I am able to learn about an even wider variety of recent scientific findings. Their topics aren’t limited to “hard science” (I have a B.A., nothing against the softer sciences), and they also have excellent coverage of just about everything. I enjoy reading their topics on anthropology & archaeology, health, and science & society.

How many words does a translator translate per day?

I have read and heard from several different sources that a professional translator can translate 3,000–3,500 words per day, as an average figure.

However, this range can vary a lot. I think this number of words is very doable in translating from one Romance language to another (Spanish to Italian) or from a Germanic language to a Romance language (English to Spanish), but I imagine this number of words might not be possible when translating between two very different languages (i.e. Arabic to English and vice versa).

I am able to comfortably translate 3,500 words a day, or even more, when I am working with colloquial or informal text. However, when working with technical or academic translations, I average a little less at somewhere between 2,000–3,000 words per day. Technical translating takes more time due to formatting considerations and field-specific terminology. I might be able to translate 6,000 words or more a day, but then I will need an additional day to edit or review this text. So overall, my translated words per day balance out to around 2,000–3,000.

My Translation Method

From the time I receive a manuscript (in Spanish) to the time that I send a final translation (in English) to a client, I pass through the following steps:

  • Initial review: I read the manuscript for understanding, look up terminology to clarify its meaning, and try to get an overall perspective on the subject, determine the goal of the publication, and get a feel for the author’s voice and style. Sometimes more extensive background research is involved if I need to get more acquainted with the subject matter.
  • 1st draft translation: I create a rough first draft in English. In this first draft, I just aim to translate ideas, facts, and numbers as accurately and precisely as possible, and sometimes quite literally. I try to incorporate the author’s voice and creativity when appropriate and when this translates well into English. Depending on the length and difficulty of the article, sometimes I will create a glossary or list of terms to guide myself throughout the translation and maintain consistency in term usage (although I admittedly have a good memory and don’t struggle to maintain consistency, even without a glossary).
  • 2nd review: Then, I review the resulting manuscript and edit extensively to make sure ideas flow well from start to finish. Here, I am less interested in a literal translation and more focused on patching together the ideas of the article or publication to make a cohesive whole. I focus more on things like word order and proper transitioning from paragraph to paragraph.
  • Final review: I read over the final result once or twice, and often I will make very minor corrections or double-check the terminology. I like to start this step after having “left” the manuscript for at least 24 hours, meaning that I haven’t looked at it for a little while. Sometimes this helps me get a fresh mind and perspective, without completely forgetting the subject matter. This is also the final opportunity to catch any mistakes that I might have looked over during the previous step.

So, any manuscript that I receive will be reviewed extensively by the time it is finally returned to my client. For revisions or editions of English manuscripts, step 2 is irrelevant, but I still review all translations or editions that I receive on at least three separate occasions, following the above steps.

I also generally work about 45 minutes per hour. I will take a mini break every single hour to distract myself from the subject matter for a little bit (without completely getting off course). Sometimes this means very unprofessionally (cough cough) playing Candy Crush, looking at clothes or shoes or recipes online, checking e-mails, or preparing a nice, hot cup of coffee 🙂

This is a study method I have used since college – I find it difficult to exclusively concentrate on anything for more than an hour, and sometimes little mini breaks are something to look forward to and serve as a reward!

What makes a good translator? (LIST)

What makes a good translator?

I have compiled a list of some of the qualities that I consider to define an excellent translator.

A good translator has:

  • Extensive knowledge of target language. While it is obvious that an excellent translator must have working knowledge of two languages, it is also essential that they have superb knowledge of the language they are translating into (i.e., their mother tongue). This includes knowledge of grammar and syntax, but goes far beyond this to what I describe in the following point: cultural context.
  • Cultural context. A good translator has an idea of how language is used in a given context. This means that they have a grasp of both professional and informal language and the appropriate vocabulary. Translating a business document entails a different type of language and focus versus translating a marketing or technical document. A good translator is a flexible writer and can adapt their style to reflect the voice of the original document but also follow an appropriate style for the publication or audience that they are writing for. This point is particularly interesting, where for example, the language used for writing a formal business letter or legal document in Spanish is significantly different from the way these documents would be written in English. This is a reflection of institutional and cultural differences regarding language expression and context. A good translator will not only understand languages, but differences in cultural expression.
  • Does not rely on literal translations. It is all about the meaning. A superb translator will focus on conveying ideas and meaning versus literally translating, searching to finding the right words for communicating subtle differences in language. Running across the field is not the same as gleefully prancing across the grass. While many verbs and nouns are broadly synonymous, a good translator understands their slight differences and is able to find the best word to use. You probably would have read a literal translation if you had finished reading a translated document and were able to understand it, but it just didn’t “sound right.” In this sense, meaning and ideas were perhaps literally conveyed, but the document was not well-written (according to the cultural context). This leads into the next point…
  • An overall enjoyment of reading, writing, and learning. An excellent translator is also a good writer. In addition to having a grasp of the cultural context, they also enjoy both reading and writing in their target language and are able to read a document in the source language and first of all, understand it. This potentially involves background research in subject-specific areas to be able to convey ideas, terminology, and acronyms following the conventions of that field. As a translator you are continuously learning, because it is impossible to be an expert in the subject matter of every document that you receive. A sense of curiosity and willingness to learn goes a long way in these cases.
  • Subject-specific expertise. While in the previous point I mentioned that it is impossible to be an expert in every field or every document you receive, being an expert doesn’t hurt either. The most accomplished translators have also focused on the subjects that they have the most working knowledge in, where their familiarity with the subject is exactly what makes them stand out from other translators.

So, these are some points that I consider define an excellent translator. Believe me, before I started translating I would have imagined that it is much easier than it is! As you may see, the above qualities go beyond just having a working knowledge of two or more languages. I believe that, above all, a love for languages and writing, along with a sense of curiosity, are the attitudes that distinguish all good translators.