Using the Internet in the translation activity – Part 2 of 2

This is the continuation of Using the Internet in the translation activity – Part 1.

Most translators said that reliability was quite problematic when using online sources because a lot of them have not been peer-reviewed and anybody can publish on the Internet. An article written by an expert is obviously more reliable than an article posted by a layperson. Most translators (50/75; 66.6%) think that online sources are not as reliable as paper sources and assessing their reliability was more difficult. We may suggest that an equivalent should be more reliable if the number of occurrences is significant. For example, an equivalent with 1,000 occurrences may be more reliable than an equivalent with 500 occurrences. This strategy is ‘tricky’ because reliability does not depend on quantitative criteria. Also, the number of occurrences may depend on the research strategy (see the number of results when typing ‘rosace+nucléaire’ and ‘rosace’).

Translators whose languages are rarely spoken and read in their working environment[1] were also asked if they had taken advantage of the web’s potential. The online translation strategies of 52 translators matching this profile were investigated.[2] It was first noticed that these translators did not share the same opinion about the Internet as those working with more ‘common’ working languages (e.g. English, French, German and Spanish). Most of them (40/52; 76.9%) reported that they did take advantage of the Web’s potential but there were still too few online sources written in their ‘rare’ languages. Therefore, they use a lot more paper sources than translators working in ‘common’ working languages. 47.9% (23/48) of the respondents with a ‘rare’ working language said they first used paper sources and most of them (29/45; 64.4%) answered that online sources were not specialized enough. Different answers were given by some translators. Most Danish, Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian translators (10/14; 71.4%) said they were able find enough online sources in their language. The same cannot be said for most Russian and Polish translators; according to them (12/13; 92.3%), the Internet does not provide enough specialized sources in their languages.

The Internet has also deeply impacted other elements of the translation activity. Respondents with a 10-year experience and more in translation said that before the Internet era, purchasing paper sources accounted for a huge part of their investments (23 translators) because specialized sources were more difficult to find than today and having technical books, journals, dictionaries and glossaries was a means to save time. They also added that the Internet had dramatically cut their investments in paper sources. Thirteen ‘young’ translators (in the business for less than 10 years) reported that they did not want to buy and/or keep paper sources because they were able to find everything on the Web.

In the late 1990s, Dimitri Théologitis (1998: 345), a researcher in translation studies, wrote that in the future computers and the Internet would isolate translators. On the contrary, translators have more contact with the ‘outside world’ than ever before. Most respondents (34/48; 71%) said that with the Internet, they could reach clients and translators more easily. Some mentioned websites such as Proz[3] or Translatorscafé[4] where they can ask terminological questions (see Wakabayashi 2002; Gambier 2007; Plassard 2007). Nevertheless, some translators have not taken advantage of these tools; most translators whose languages are rarely spoken and read in their working environment (50/70; 71.4%) said they did not use online forums because they often did not get answers (given the small number of translators having these working languages).

Translators specialized with domains whose terminology evolves rapidly tend to use paper sources more often than online sources. Translators specialized with computer science, marketing, biology and pharmacology (52/69; 75.3%) said they favored online sources because their paper sources were rapidly outdated. On the contrary, translators specialized in nuclear energy, history, music and fine arts (26/42; 61.9%) said they first used paper sources.

Answers given by the respondents showed that the Internet was not the best tool to get basic knowledge in a specialized domain. 56.3% of them (84/149) think there is too much information online and finding basic sources was difficult. They also questioned the reliability of such sources. According to them, paper sources are more adequate to understand basic concepts. Answers were different depending on the experience of the respondents; translators thinking that it is easier to specialize by using paper sources are more experienced than those favoring online sources (16.4 years of experience vs. 11 years).

When translators cannot find adequate information, they can contact specialists and ask technical questions. Has the Internet impacted this strategy? Most respondents said that the Internet could replace human sources (54/96; 56.25%), given the number of online information but they insisted on the fact that asking questions to an expert was faster than searching the Web. They also get more accurate answers. Most translators (53/77; 68.8%) do not contact experts for the same reasons than before; when the Internet did not exist, they contacted experts because they did not find enough sources; now, they can find any information they want and usually contact specialists to know if an equivalent fits the context or is reliable.

These results show that the Internet has had a major influence on translation strategies but also deeply impacted the translator’s everyday life.

This blog post was the second and last part. The article has been published by Laurent, he is German, English to French principal translator at If you need a professional translation service in any language, at your translations are in safe hands, believe me. As a translator you a welcome to easily subscribe for translation jobs here.

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[1] For example, a Japanese-French translator working in France

[2] These ‘rare’ languages were Arabic, Basque, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese, Korean, Danish, Finish, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Japanese, Norwegian, Slovak, Czech, Turkish, Ukrainian and Yiddish.




Durieux, Christine (2003) Entre terminologie et traduction : la recherche documentaire, dans Turjumàn. 12/1. pp. 17-38.

Froeliger, Nicolas (1999) Le traducteur face à l’interdisciplinarité, dans La revue des lettres et de traduction. 5. pp. 101-112.

Gambier, Yves (2007) Réseaux de traducteurs/interprètes bénévoles, dans Meta. 52/4. pp. 658-672.

Gile, Daniel (1995) Basic concepts and models for interpreter and translator training. Amsterdam/Philadelphia. Benjamins Translation Library. 277 p.

Gile, Daniel (2005) La traduction : la comprendre, l’apprendre. Paris. Presses Universitaires de France. 278 p.

Hönig, Hans et Kussmaul, Paul (1982) Strategie der Übersetzung, ein Lehr- und Arbeitsbuch. Tübingen. Gunter Narr Verlag. 172 p.

Lagarde, Laurent (2009) Le traducteur professionnel face aux textes techniques et à la recherche documentaire. Thèse de doctorat. Paris. ESIT – Université Paris III Sorbonne Nouvelle. 340 p.

Plassard, Freddie (2007) La traduction face aux nouvelles pratiques en réseaux, dans Meta. 52/4. pp. 643-657.

Théologitis, Dimitri (1998) …And the profession ? (The impact of new technology on the translator), dans Terminologie et Traduction. 1. pp. 342-351.

Wakabayashi, Judy (2002) Through Internet mailing lists for translators, dans Hung, Eva. Teaching translation and interpreting 4 – Building bridges. Amsterdam/Philadelphia. Benjamins Translation Library. pp. 47-58.

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