A Day in the Life of a GV Translator


Welcome to my office.  Pull up a chair.  For the next few minutes, I invite you to peek over my shoulder while I sit here at my desk and walk you through my own personal process for translating Global Voices posts.  My “desk” isn't nearly as fancy as the photo above suggests.  In fact, it's currently a makeshift pile of scrap wood that my boyfriend, Shawn found in a construction dumpster a couple of blocks away from our Buenos Aires apartment and lovingly pieced together for me.

A year and half ago, Shawn and I sold all our belongings, moved out of the U.S. and started traveling around Latin America. Because I am constantly on the go, I don’t travel with any hard-copy dictionaries.  My translation resources are therefore limited to a Mac computer, kindle ebooks, a Nespresso machine (yes, I will embarrassingly admit that I travel with a Nespresso machine) and the World Wide Web.

Here it goes:

1. Set A Timer

I use a website called toggl to track my productivity and keep statistics on how long it takes me to translate so that I can accurately schedule my work.

2. Read & Create A Glossary

In the words of Vinay & Darbelnet, translators don't translate to understand, they translate so others may understand. With that in mind, I like to read the text once through before translating.  While reading, I highlight words I don’t know, copy and paste them into a Word document, look them up, and create a glossary of terms.

2. Analyze the Text

After finishing reading the text, I ask myself the following questions:

  • What is the context? Where does the story take place?
  • What was the writer’s main objective?
  • What were the key points?
  • What specific words, phrases, or sentences were the most climactic?
  • Which parts of the text created the most emotional response? What was my emotional response?
  • Did the author show multiple perspectives or just one side to the story?
  • Is the author’s opinion clear or was it presented in an objective way?
  • How is the information organized?
  • What style is the article written in?
  • Who is this article intended for? Who are the readers?

3. Determine Method and Register

Based on my answers to the above questions, I decide which translation method (literal, adaptive, free, etc.) and register (academic, informative, familiar, formal, etc.) to use.

4. Translate

Once I’ve clearly understood the text and determined my approach, I roll up my sleeves and start translating.  First, I move the GV post to occupy the left half of my screen, open a separate Word document on the right half of the screen, and then type my translation into the Word document.  Whenever I come across a difficult term that I can’t solve off hand, I use the following references and techniques to work through the problem.


  • Wordreference (Hint: make sure you read and/or post in the forums.)
  • Linguee: See how other translators have already translated the same word, phrase, or sentence.
  • RAE: The official Spanish dictionary.
  • Merriam-Webster: A reliable English dictionary.
  • Thesaurus 
  • Sinonimos
  • Asi Hablamos: A great resource for finding Spanish slang.
  • Google Search: Sometimes a simple google search is the answer. If not, I also try using the google images search function to identify a mysterious word or phrase.
  • YouTube: If there's a definition I can't find in the dictionary, I use YouTube as a “google” search tool.
  • GV Style Guide
  • WordFast Anywhere: A free cloud-based CAT tool. I used this for the first two GV translations, but now I prefer not to use WFA for online media posts because I am unable to see the visual message that I am translating.
  • Email the Author.
  • Click on the links within the post.

Techniques: Sometimes achieving a native sound is as easy as changing the word from a verb to a gerund. When I run into a point in my translation that sounds unnatural or stilted, it helps to go through a list of translation techniques that I could possibly apply to that particular word or phrase.    Here’s a basic list of Vinay & Darbelnet’s translation techniques to keep in mind:

  • Borrowing
  • Calque
  • Literal Translation
  • Modulation
  • Transposition
  • Equivalence
  • Adaptation

5. Keep A Log

While translating, I simultaneously create a log of any doubts or questions that arise during the translation process. I do so by copying and pasting the original text into a Word document and then I highlight the problematic text and make a note.

6. Bilingual Editing

Once the whole article is translated, I compare the original text with the translation side-by-side, ensuring that my translation has the same meaning that the original post conveyed.

7. Spell Check

‘Nough said.

8. WordPress Publishing

This is where I log into WordPress, create a new post, upload the data and formatting from the original post and then copy and paste my translation over the original text.

9. Monolingual Editing

During this round of editing, I put the original text away and I focus on the translated version only, checking for coherence, grammar, spelling and other items on my checklist (see #12 for more information about my checklist).

10. Submit the Translation & Questions

Because there are editors and supervisors who oversee my work at Global Voices, I send my questions (created during step #5) and submit my translation to my supervisor in the same email.  That way my concerns are noted, but the translation doesn’t lose any time.

11. Respond to Feedback

Feedback is hard especially after you’ve just racked your brain for hours trying to turn in a time sensitive post, but it’s also an instant way to improve your translation quality.  I pay close attention to the editorial comments, respond in a welcoming way, and then try to draw conclusions about what I can do to avoid making that error again in the future.

12. Make A Checklist

There's nothing worse than making the same mistake over and over again.  To avoid this, I turn the editorial comments into a checklist.  For example, my GV supervisor mentioned in an editorial comment that I forgot to translate the excerpt.  Oops! “Translate the excerpt” is now an item on my checklist, which I use during the monolingual editing process to make sure I’ve satisfied all the requirements.

And that’s it!

So that’s how Global Voices posts are translated at my desk.  I hope that perhaps I have helped you to discover something new and useful.  I look forward to your feedback and I hope to be invited to see how this process works at your desk.

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