Some people see translators as walking dictionaries. This may be even true to a certain extent and translators certainly have a lot more words at their disposal than other people. But when you are asking a translator "What does … mean in German/English/Chinese?" then his or her answer will most probably be "That depends on the context." Researching competence is an essential competence of any translator, i. e. the translator needs to know where he can look up the meaning of single words and where he or she can find information about content. Then he or she has to assess the words or the content found and make a decision about the most appropriate solution.

Translating single words

Every translator has standard translations for certain words from one language to another. But more often than not this standard translation is not the most appropriate one. And so translators are still poring over dictionaries or clicking their way through online dictionaries or other references to find other, hopefully more appropriate suggestions to translate a particular word.

Chinese place and street names and company names

While place and street names and company names in other languages may often be written the same way or at most transcribed, it is not that simple for Chinese names. I cannot just follow my intuition because for most place or company names there area already more or less official translations, in most cases into English. Route planners, company websites, websites of the particular place or city, or Wikipedia for place names, company websites or company directories for company names are usually quite helpful here. Only if I cannot find a solution may I venture into finding my own solution.


The designation of a machine, a component or a legal circumstance that comes to the mind of a translator first is not always the right one. So I always have to verify what I mostly only see as words written in front of me. Not always because I do not know something (what undisputedly also happens) but because you are expecting a professional and correct translation from me and it is my duty to deliver that to you.

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