Using image searches for translation research

When you’re doing research for a translation, don’t restrict yourself to searching only on text sites. Image searches are really useful as well, and sometimes more so than text searches. Following are a couple of examples I’ve come across lately.

I recently translated a list of advertising keywords for a fashion company. I always find these types of assignments disproportionately hard because you have no context; the source document is just a list of words in a spreadsheet. Doing an image search (I use Google Images but I’m sure there are other good image search engines out there too) really helped, because I wanted to know “what is this thing” more than “what is the meaning of this word.” I also use image searches a lot when I’m translating a document about machinery or manufacturing processes, and I want to see a visual of how the whole apparatus works so that I can translate correctly. In addition, sometimes when I translate non-European French documents (i.e. from West Africa or the Caribbean), certain local terms don’t appear anywhere in my usual text-based term resources but they do appear in image searches.

A colleague in our local translators association clued me in to another great use of image searches: determining someone’s gender based on their name. Obviously if someone has a gender-neutral name, this technique doesn’t help; but when it’s simply a case that you don’t know whether a “foreign” name is typically male or female, it helps a lot. I’ll admit that when I come across many uncommon names, it’s not always obvious to me whether they’re typically male or female and it feels awkward to ask the person to clarify. Often, putting the person’s name into Google Images will immediately give you an entire page of pictures of all men or all women.

Any other translation-related uses for image searches out there?

4 Responses to “Using image searches for translation research”
  1. Kevin Lossner January 7, 2010
  2. kristen January 9, 2010
  3. kristen January 9, 2010
  4. Riccardo January 13, 2010

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