2811, 2019

All translators know that research is one of the key parts of the translation process, but not everyone knows that there are some simple ways of making your Google searches more effective. Below is a list of some Google search tips and strategies that are particularly useful for translators. If you didn’t already know about them, try them out! You should find that they make your searches more efficient and that you get better results.

Google search tips for translators

Find an exact phrase

Most people will probably already know about and use this Google search strategy. However, it is one of the most useful, so it is still worthy of a mention. To search for an exact phrase, put quotes around the phrase.

Example: “stay engaged in”

This will only give you results that include that phrase in that order. Without the quotes, you get some results related to getting engaged. This strategy can be helpful, for example, when researching specific terms or when checking whether a phrase sounds natural. You can also combine multiple exact phrases.

Example: “elderly people” “stay engaged in”

Occasionally, just using quotes will not be enough to make Google search exactly what you are looking for. This is because Google changes your search to find what it thinks you’re looking for. This involves dropping certain words, correcting spellings including synonyms or dropping apostrophes. If you want to ensure that Google only searches exactly what you input, do a verbatim search. To do this, go to Tools, then click All Results and then Verbatim.

Google search tips for translators- how to get verbatim search results

Search results can also be influenced by factors like your location, device and search history. To minimise this influence, go to Settings and click Hide private results (you can also set this to the default in Search settings). Better still, use an anonymous browser, such as Chrome’s Incognito mode or Edge’s InPrivate browsing. However, be aware that even when using these methods, Google may still personalise results to some extent due to cookies—there are ways to get around this if it’s a problem for you.

Find a missing word

To find a missing word or words in a phrase, use an asterisk to carry out a wildcard search. This is particularly beneficial to translators when you are unsure of common collocations or set phrases.

Example: “to * a coup”

This search shows that some common collocations with coup are: to lead a coup, to stage a coup, to attempt a coup.

Define a word

To get the definition of a word you simply type define: followed by the term you want to define. This can help you to ascertain that you are using a word correctly. You can also use this to find synonyms and related words.

Example: define:tortuous

This shortcut also works in other languages if you enter “define” in that language.

Example in Spanish: definir:pluralidad

Remove results that contain a specified term

Sometimes you may want to exclude results related to a specific term, use the minus sign to do this. This can be of use to translators when you have a term with multiple meanings that you want to look up and you want to exclude results related to one of those meanings.

Example: matrix -film

This will give you results related to the word “matrix”, excluding any results that also include the word “film”.

Search within a website

You can use site: followed by a website address and then your search term to search for that term within that website. This can be especially helpful for translators if you are not provided with a glossary but the client has a multilingual website. In this way, you can search for the term in the source-language website and then switch to the version in your target language to see how the term is translated.

Example: site:repsol.com/es “exploración y producción”

This search shows us the pages where the phrase “exploración y producción” is found on the Spanish website and its breadcrumb. When we switch to the English version of the website, we are taken back to the homepage, but we can use the breadcrumb to find the same page. We find that the English term used by Repsol for this is “upstream”.

View the cached version of a website

When you google something, you sometimes find that when you click on a search result, you cannot actually find your search term on that page. This is often because the page has been updated since Google last cached the page. You can view Google’s most recent cache of a page by typing cache: followed by the website address (there is no need to include http:// or www.). You can usually then find your search term on the cached page. This can also help if a site is down for maintenance.

Example: cache:iti.org.uk

Find out the time in another time zone

Translators often work with clients in different time zones, this can sometimes make deadlines confusing. A simple way of checking the time in another time zone is to type the time and time zone followed by in or to and the time zone you want to convert it to. You can also search time in followed by a city or country to show the current time in that place.

Example: 9am EST in GMT
Or: time in New York

Convert units

Depending on the requirements of the client and style guide, you may need to convert units when translating. You can do this in Google by simply typing in what you want to convert followed by in or to and the unit you want to convert it to.

Example: 127 GBP to EUR
Or: 26 miles in km

Search a range of numbers

If you want to search for a range of numbers, use two dots. Translators may want to use this when researching events between certain dates. You can also use it when you are unsure of the exact date that something occurred.

Example: canal built Belgium 1800..1825

Search in websites with a particular domain suffix

You can search in websites that only have a certain domain suffix by using the site: function followed by the domain suffix and then your search term. Translators may wish to use this function to check if a certain word or phrase is used in a specific country. It can also be helpful when researching terms that have different meanings in different countries.

Example: site:.co.uk “shoot the breeze”

Filter results by date

If you want to filter your results by when they were published, you can do this by clicking on Tools and then choosing a time frame or setting a custom range. This can be of use to translators who work in fast-moving fields, such as IT, and therefore need the latest information.

Google search tips for translators- how to filter search results by date

Compare usage of different words or phrases

You can use the quotes search strategy explained at the start of this list to compare the results for similar phrases to determine which is more commonly used. For example, if you are unsure whether the more commonly used collocation is “stay engaged in” or “remain engaged in”, you can search both and compare the number of results given for each one.


Google search tips for translators- compare resultsGoogle search tips for translators- compare results

In this case, the number of results is relatively high and similar for both terms, which suggests that both terms are acceptable. You could narrow it down further to see which is used more frequently in a specific context. You could do this by adding further search terms outside the quotes, searching within a specific site, excluding results that contain a certain word or searching within sites with a particular domain suffix.

Another way of comparing usage of a certain word or phrase is by using Google Ngram Viewer, which is a search engine that charts the frequency of words in Google Books corpora. You can use Google Ngram Viewer to compare the frequency of different terms, compare the frequency of the same term in different corpora, such as the British English corpus and the American English corpus, or see the frequency of terms within a specific time frame. Also, unlike standard Google searches, Google Ngram Viewer is case sensitive, so it can prove useful in situations where you are unsure whether to capitalise a certain word.


Google Ngram Viewer globalisation example

Google Ngram Viewer has many other interesting uses, which you can read more about here.

Ensure reliability of the source

One way to ensure the reliability of sources is to use Google Scholar, which only returns results from credible, scholarly literature. Google Scholar is particularly handy for translators who specialise in more academic fields, such as law or medicine.

Finally, don’t forget that you can combine the different tips that I have listed above to narrow your results down further.

I hope you find these Google search tips for translators helpful. There are many other search tips and strategies out there, but I selected the ones that I find most beneficial as a translator. Let me know if you have any other search tips that you think other translators may benefit from!

If you’re looking for more technology tips for translators, have a look at my posts on keyboard shortcuts for translators and free tools for translators.

1905, 2019

Last weekend, I went to my very first translation conference- the ITI Conference in Sheffield. I had an amazing time catching up with old friends and colleagues, meeting new people, and learning a lot. Throughout the conference, there were a number of topics and ideas that kept cropping up, so I just wanted to briefly share with you the five main points that I took away from the conference.


2702, 2019

I love music and I hate working in silence, however, I find it really difficult to translate whilst listening to music with lyrics. I get confused and focus on the lyrics instead of the words that I’m supposed to be translating. Having spoken to lots of other translators about this, I’ve found that many others have the same problem. So, I’ve put together this list of five of my favourite Spotify playlists of music without words to listen to while translating. The playlists span a range of genres including classical, electronic, and film scores, so there should be something for all tastes and moods. I hope you enjoy them and that they help you focus on your translations!


3010, 2018

Some people may argue that business cards are old-fashioned or even redundant these days, but I believe that they remain relevant. Business cards are inexpensive and convenient to distribute, making them a great marketing technique for freelance translators. This is especially true when networking at conferences and events. However, in order for a business card to be effective, it has to provide the right information. So, let’s take a look at what you should (and shouldn’t) put on a business card for freelance translators.


2809, 2018

Every translator will tell you that they use tools in their day-to-day business, whether to actually translate or for other reasons. For example, there are many time management and productivity tools available, unfortunately, many tools out there can be very expensive. However, there is a vast range of tools that won’t cost you a penny of your hard-earned money but which still do a great job. The following list of free tools for translators is made up of some of these great, money-saving tools. Not all of the tools in my list are aimed specifically at translators, but I have personally used all of them and found that they made my life easier in some way. Some of the following tools are completely free, while others are what is called ‘freemium’, meaning that there is a free version with limited features, and you can pay to upgrade. (more…)

2808, 2018

Many of you will have heard about the challenge of translating ‘Hodor’, and some of the inventive solutions that the various translators came up with. But there are many other terms in A Game of Thrones which also caused issues for translators. Many translation problems in A Game of Thrones were caused by neologisms, these are new words or phrases, or new meanings for existing words or phrases.


2906, 2018

Translators spend a lot of time behind computers so it’s important to know how to use technology to its full potential. Keyboard shortcuts are just one of the ways that you can make technology work for you, this involves using a combination of keys to perform different functions without needing to use the mouse. Once you get the hang of keyboard shortcuts they can speed up your work and even prevent injuries.


1505, 2018

Watching TV series and films is a great, informal way of learning a language or keeping up a language that you already know. Watching series and films is obviously a great way to improve your listening skills and expand your vocabulary, but it also has some less obvious benefits. For example, it also exposes you to the culture(s) of that language and a variety of different accents. As well as that, it lets you experience authentic conversation. That includes everyday expressions, varied language, real-life speed of speech and slang or colloquial language. Most importantly, it’s an enjoyable and motivating way to learn!


1804, 2018

Before applying to the University of Portsmouth’s distance-learning MA in Translation Studies, I remember trying to find reviews and comments from previous students to understand more about what the course was really like and being unable to find much. Having now completed the course, I decided to write this review in the hopes that it will be useful to other prospective students. (more…)

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