Chartered Institute
of Linguists

Top Tips on preparing for the DipTrans

By Mike Routledge







Preparing for the DipTrans exam requires reflection and practice. Reflection means considering what the exam is testing: the production of a target text that is:

  • Accurate: it says exactly what the source text says;
  • Appropriate: it uses language that fits the subject matter and the intended reader;
  • Authentic: it uses language that is grammatically correct, consistent and coherent (i.e. your target text reads like an original, not a translation);
  • Acceptable: it follows the conventions of presentation (punctuation, orthography, paragraphing, speech marks etc) of the target language.

The DipTrans is a professional qualification; your translation must satisfy a potential client. Frequent practice using source texts or past papers (obtainable from CIOL) is important. Choose 600-word texts from good journalistic sources for Unit 01 (Written translation of a general text), and 450-word texts from semi-specialised journals or newspapers for Units 02 (Translation of a semi-specialised text in either Technology, Business, or Literature) and 03 (a semi-specialised text in either Science, Social Science, or Law).

The rules allow you to refer to bilingual and monolingual dictionaries, encyclopaedias and thesauruses (printed, not electronic), so practise using these. When you look up a word or expression, do not pounce on the first equivalent given, but read the whole entry to avoid mistakes. You will probably learn something new in the process.  

Practice also means reading good-quality articles in source and target languages, especially with the semi-specialised units in mind. For the literature option, choose literary works in both languages, making careful notes about literary style, dialogue, varying registers, stylistic devices etc.

For the exam, choose your Unit 02 and 03 options carefully, and have a back-up in case the set passage deals with an unfamiliar topic.

  • Read the rubric: it dictates your target readership and may offer help with technical terms that occur in the passage;
  • Read the whole passage first to grasp the general sense or ‘argument’;
  • Don’t decide not to look something up; it’s always worth the trouble;
  • Check strategically: reserve time for checking and check methodically for omissions (a very common error), grammar, spelling, figures, punctuation and proper names. 

For further guidance, I would recommend reading Peter Newmark’s A Textbook of Translation (1995), Mona Baker’s In Other Words: A coursebook on translation (1992) and Routledge’s Thinking Translation series.

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