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Why does a translator need dictionaries and how to use them

When people ask me if I use dictionaries when translating english to bangla, I answer: “When dictionaries are at hand and there is time to look into them, then of course I use them. And when there is no time for this, I try to basically do without them.

A professional translator must be able to translate in any, the most extreme conditions. Indeed, with the same oral translations, especially with simultaneous translation, there is practically no opportunity to look into dictionaries. And most importantly: you never know in advance what word you might need this time.

Even if you carry a whole set of electronic dictionaries or a pocket translator with you for interpretation, you still practically cannot use them.

In addition, those words that are needed are most often not found in dictionaries. And that scanty gentlemanly set of words that wanders from one dictionary to another, a professional translator basically knows that.

A dictionary can really come in handy to look up some rare names of birds or fish, translation options for little-used idiomatic expressions and proverbs. But in the conditions of oral translation, it is still unrealistic to do this. Unless (an ideal case!) A free partner sitting next to you will super-fast look at these words in some super-large electronic super-dictionary, where everything is there, and write tips on paper for you. But this is all from a fantasy series.

That is why it is desirable for an interpreter to know the topics of speeches as accurately as possible in advance, and even better to have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the texts in advance. This immediately significantly reduces the likelihood that when translating, he will encounter unfamiliar words and terms that are essential for this topic. The rest can, after all, be conveyed descriptively, that is, in your own words.

Thus, translators use dictionaries primarily when translating. Moreover, the more complex the text, the more highly specialized terms it contains, the higher the need for dictionaries.

There is such a long-standing translation aphorism: “The translator begins where the dictionary ends.” This aphorism was once liked to be repeated by the German translators of the Main Editorial Office of Translations of the Novosti Press Agency, where in the first years of perestroika I happened to work, one might say, for two positions at once: as a senior control editor and part-time translator.

What is meant here: not finding the right word in the dictionary, a professional translator must still adequately get out of the situation by coming up with an acceptable working version of the translation.

After all, professional translation is not a substitution of ready-made translations found in the dictionary, but the writing of a new text in the target language, following the original text as closely as possible.

An experienced professional translator looks into the dictionary, as a rule, already having some kind of his own, working version of the translation, in order to once again check himself, clarify the nuances of meaning, grammatical forms. From the translation options given in the dictionary, he, relying on his knowledge of the language and subject, chooses the most appropriate one for the given context.

A novice, inexperienced or non-professional translator grasps the dictionary like a straw and is happy when he finds something there. After all, he can always say: “I found this translation in the dictionary.”

I myself, knowing the German language (at least its written form) at a level close to a native speaker of German and being fairly well versed in German vocabulary, idioms and shades of the meanings of German words, I am always touched by how generally people who know the language in the initial or intermediate level, can use translation dictionaries effectively.

Indeed, in most modern dictionaries, thematic labels and examples of use are usually completely absent or are not given for all words. For a person who has a poor command of the language, to compose a competent sentence, relying only on a dictionary, in my opinion, is a rather problematic task. It’s like dumping a pile of spare parts and auto components in front of a non-motorist, giving him instructions on 100 pages and asking him to assemble a car from this that can drive.

In addition, it is not a secret for anyone that there are blunders, errors, and typos in dictionaries (this also applies to the same Multitran dictionary, and Lingua dictionaries, and any others, including the program for machine translation Promt “). Therefore, dictionaries should always be treated critically. And if you are not sure about the translation option that the dictionary offers, then it is always better to double-check with some other source. Today, the Internet can serve as such a source in many cases.

In any case, you cannot rely on the dictionary alone. The dictionary is only an auxiliary tool, only one of the working tools of a professional translator.