Chartered Institute
of Linguists

Preparatory notes on translation

Preparing for the Diploma in Translation

As a qualification indicating basic professional competence, the Diploma in Translation requires a high level of language competence in the source language and native speaker ability, or equivalent, in the written target language. In order to ensure that they are fully aware of the level and demands of the examination, candidates are advised to study the Qualification Specification carefully, to consult past examination papers, to download the List of Recommendations to Candidates and/or the Seminars for specific language combinations. They should always make sure that they have sufficient training and/or experience to attempt the examination at a professional level.

Two factors determine how much preparation may be needed in the run-up to the examination:

  • the knowledge of relevant subject areas and experience of translating to professional standards candidates may already have
  • the amount of translating practice with feedback that candidates are able to receive prior to the examination.

Candidates are expected to read widely and keep abreast of current affairs so that they are not daunted by unfamiliar cultural references. Effective reference material is vital. In addition to bilingual dictionaries, candidates will need bilingual and monolingual reference materials and it may also be helpful to have lists of acronyms and abbreviations and glossaries in both languages, which will be useful, for example, in checking the spelling of proper names in the translation.

Candidates should ensure that prior to the examination they have established precisely where in the reference material selected specific information can be found, for example, where lists of geographical names in translation or weights and measures are given in a dictionary.

Candidates are encouraged to join classes specifically leading to the Diploma in Translation or to join other courses that include elements relevant to the preparation for it. Postgraduate courses in comparative or applied linguistics, international trade or international studies with a foreign language may also provide some of the theory and an introduction to concepts and terminology for some of the topics within the options offered. Webinars such as those offered by CIOL can also be very helpful.

Importance of translation theory

Whilst priority should be given to the practice of translation, with feedback on the quality of their translations, candidates should have an awareness of theory and an understanding of how this theory should be applied. Aspects of translation theory that candidates may find helpful in their preparation for the Diploma include:

  • an understanding of the dynamics of translating, ie, a consideration of source text and author, expected readership and the cultural setting of the source and target languages;
  • the search for translation equivalences and other translation procedures such as transfer and naturalisation;
  • types of register and style, their implications and some experience in handling concepts and terminology in both languages of the examination;
  • an awareness of translation problems and possible solutions to specific problems relating to proper names, abbreviations, conversions, weights and measures etc. such as translator’s notes;
  • an awareness of text typology and types of translation and, in particular, of the appropriateness of semantic as opposed to communicative translation.