Best Practices

How and when to use sight translation practices

A professional translator can use a handful of strategies in order to improve their translations skills.
Rodrigo Demetrio
2 min
Table of Contents

A professional translator can use a handful of strategies in order to improve their translations skills.

One of those abilities is what we call “sight translation”. Although it is one of the most popular strategies used by translators everywhere, sight translation is more complex than most people think. Luckly, in this text, we will start with the basics. We will also show you how to use this competence to master your translation skills.

What is sight translation

In short terms, sight translation is when a professional translates a document by saying the words out loud in the targeted language. The entire process revolves around the professional translator reading silently the original document. Afterwards he/she proceeds to say it’s words out loud in the targeted language.This ability is particularly fruitful in conference rooms, courtrooms or hospitals. Translation of letters, patient forms and other materials can be done with this technique. In general, it is used when there is not much time available to translate a piece of text.Furthermore, a professional can use it when translating pieces of texts that ask for a more informal tone of voice. This is the case of books that mimicates dialogues or other educational material.

When to use sight translation

Due to it’s dynamic pace, sight translations are particularly popular when translators receive a piece of writing and have to translate it in short notice. This happens because it takes relatively less time to translate a document using this technique than others, like the pivot language approach. That is why sight translation is also helpful when a translation must be done on site.

How to do it properly

Although the concept of sight translation has a fairly simple explanation, it is not an easy task to actually do it. Successfully translating something at sight requires a lot of abilities. Those go from being really proficient in the languages involved to knowing how to read and interpret visual-aided texts. Here are a few tips that are important to have in mind when implementing sight translation practices to your portfolio.

Gather a general knowledge of the subject in question

Any person doing sight translation must know the fundamental concepts regarding the subject they are going to translate. That means that, if you will translate patient forms, you should prepare by reading about these documents. Similarly, if you will translate educational material, you must learn the basics of the subject in question. This is crucial for sight translation because it is done almost simultaneously. The translator can not not be familiar with terms or any other aspects of the original document. Therefore, a person wanting to improve their sight translation skills should always prepare beforehand.

Pick languages that you are really proficient

Sight translation does not leave much room for mistakes. Therefore, a professional translator should do sight translation only for languages that they are 100% proficient in. When we say “‘100% proficient'', we are not only talking about grammatical knowledge. There are other aspects involving translations. It is the case of cultural habits, intonation, slang and emotion.

Practice your sight translation skills

Being proficient in languages can only guarantee a part of the work done. As many things in life, the rest of it revolves around practice. If you want to improve your skills in this approach, the key to success is to practice. Practice, practice, and then….practice some more! You can try finding documents in a language and then translate it out loud. Ideally, you should practice using materials in the matter that you will or want to work with. This way, you will be able to pick up the pace of sight translations. Practicing will also help you understand the logic behind this process. In turn, this will make you less nervous when it is time to really sight translate.

Read the entire document

As we mentioned above, this kind of translation is done almost simultaneously - “almost” being a key part of this sentence. As much as “translating as you go” may seem like an option, this is not the best approach. Actually, the best approach you can take is reading the entire document before starting to translate. This is because by fully comprehending the entire document you avoid problems such as mistranslations or even erroneous information. This is particularly serious when translating medical documents.

Sight translation is not always about words

Images, graphics, tables or other things can also be included in sight translations. That means that the professional must interpret them as well. Being able to read those visual-aided texts and gather its information is important to improve your sight translation skills.

The matter of localization

Being fluent in a language is more than just knowing the grammar or correct spell of words in a specific language. There are other things importantes for a person to be really able to communicate in any language. For example, he/she must also be proficient in other aspects of communications - that revolves around cultural aspects.This is why localization is important for sight translation. Localization is particularly important for sight translation because the interpreter does not have much time to “figure out” the context of any of the languages involved. Thus, the translator has to bring this competence with him or herself when doing sight translation. Sight translation is an ally for translators everywhere. The only thing to keep in mind is that it is a highly challenging skill to have. Developing it is crucial for the success of any translator. Remember, even if it takes less time, sight translation must be conducted with the same rigor applied to other forms of translation.

Rodrigo Demetrio
Steering the marketing ship at Bureau Works with 17+ years of MarTech under my belt, I transform mere ideas into tangible realities. Passionate about languages and their power to build bridges, let's build a new one?
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