How To Find Answers As A Translator

How to find answers as a translator is one of the best skills that you can have as a freelance translator.

I went to college and studied to become a translator.

I don’t know about you, but during my translation program, I never took any accounting classes or marketing classes or learned how to even find a translation client.

The program was good, but there left a lot to be desired for those of us who hoped to make it in the real world as freelance translators.

Learning how to do translation in Spanish is one thing. Learning all those other things since becoming a freelance translator has been daunting.

As I’ve worked to be more proficient in those other areas, I have had a ton of questions. I’ve asked my fair share of questions of all sorts of people, all with the goal of trying to better understand how to run my business.

Find Answers As A Translator

As a translator, one of the things I’ve done is to refine my approach when trying to find answers to my questions, to find answers as a translator.

It doesn’t matter if those translation questions are translation-related or more business-related.

To illustrate that, let me describe an experience I had when I was struggling to find answers as a translator to a question I had.

It’s not everyday I get one of those “ah-hah” moments while working.

However, a while back something happened. It stopped me in my work for a minute. It really made me change the way I approach looking for answers.

I had been working on a translation throughout the day. I was finally getting to where I could wrap it up. However, as I was getting to the end, I ran across a term that stumped me.

And it wasn’t one of those phrases that comes to you after a couple of seconds. This phrase literally blocked my brain and I couldn’t come up with the translation.

I was baffled.

“How do I translate this?,” I thought.

And you know what happens when you get stumped on something and your mind is working furiously to get the answer.

Yep, the answer starts to become more and more elusive and you can feel it slipping away.


That’s the worst.

So here I was, stumped on the translation and getting further and further away from the answer.

OK, so the answer wasn’t going to just come to me. So I decided it was time to check my stable of translation in Spanish resources.

I looked online and, a great forum for Spanish translators, by the way.

No luck.

I looked through some of my secondary online sources and didn’t get anywhere.

By this time I was getting desperate and decided to turn to my hard copy Spanish-language resources. I don’t pick those up very often since I can find an answer to most any translation question online. However, I keep them for just this type of situation.

Guess what? Yeah, nada.

OK, so what do you do when you’ve exhausted all your go-to resources. When you still aren’t anywhere close to where you need to be?

Technique Number 1 – Phone A Friend

Time to phone a friend.

I got in touch with a friend of mine and told him my dilemma.

“Dude, I’ve got this translation in Spanish that is driving me crazy! You’ve got to help me out.”

Translation Tip: If you don’t have a friend or group of friends that you can call when you run into problems, get one now!

I showed him the original (the source). He looked at it for probably no longer than 15 seconds before he told me the correct translation.

“OK, what?”

Yeah, I was stunned.

Here I had been struggling for the right answer for a couple of hours and hadn’t come up with anything. But he knew the answer in a few seconds.

The reason?

It was obvious. The translation, that is.

Technique Number 2 – Take A Break

When the correct translation didn’t come to me in the first few seconds when I was going through the translation, I subconsciously started building up walls in my mind. That stopped me from seeing the translation.

What I should have done is take a break.


Because the more elusive the translation got, the harder I made it to see the obvious translation that I should have seen right in front of me.

Instead I was off looking for a more complicated solution when I didn’t even need to.

So what does that mean for us as translators?

Well, as translators, we often have so much stuff to worry about. When we run into difficulties, we spend too much trying to come up with complicated solutions. However, the answer is usually right in front of us all along.

Whether it’s trying to find new clients, getting paid, finding new contacts, or even trying to find that perfect translation, stepping away for a moment and then looking at the simple solution that is right in front of us is often the best way to go.

We have to learn how to find answers as a translator.

When I’ve been working on my translation in Spanish or any aspect of my translation business, following this method has definitely helped me keep everything under control.

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