Achieving success as a professional translator involves a certain amount of natural ability and a tremendous level of dedication, hard work, and fine tuning of a skillset. The natural ability comes in the form of being sensitive to — and respecting of — the meaning and intent of an author’s original document.  Any good professional translator will work hard to preserve the tone and writing style of the source document. When it comes to the skillset needed to become a linguist, the obvious first and most important aspect is fluency in language. But there is another more basic, practical skill that pays huge dividends to the working translator: typing!

We’re not talking about simply typing fast. Usually, if you can “touch type” (type without looking at the keyboard), a typing speed of 50 to 60 words per minute is adequate for a translator and is relatively easy to achieve. But there are other typing skills that have proven to significantly increase the typing efficiency of translators. What follows are a few helpful typing tips for linguists:

Pay attention to the style of keyboard you use.

If possible, choose an external keyboard (one that is not attached to the computer) to provide flexibility with regard to where it’s placed, the height in relation to the screen, etc.

Investigate the shortcuts related to whatever software you’re using

MSWord, for example, provides a complete list of shortcuts that can significantly speed up the typing process. Other software programs do the same. Fully utilizing the shortcuts built into your program will ensure that you are using the software in the most efficient way possible. Refer to the software program manufacturer website for a list of shortcuts for your software.

If you don’t know how already, learn to touch type

This term refers to the ability to type without looking at the keyboard. For admin assistants and people in similar professions, touch typing is an absolute must. And it’s a huge benefit to translators as well. Check online for sites dedicated to teaching touch typing skills.

Learn how to increase your typing speed

As we mentioned earlier, a typing speed of 50 to 60 words per minute is relatively easy to achieve for most touch typists. But it will require some practice on your part. Here are a few tips to help you type faster:

  • Choose an online training site to learn how to touch type, if you don’t know how already. There are several choices available, any one of which will help you to quickly learn the finger placement necessary for typing without looking at the keyboard.
  • Once you understand the basics of touch typing – practice! Like any other skill, becoming an accurate, fast typist takes time and practice.
  • Remember to always situate your hands and wrists in a relaxed and comfortable position relative to the keyboard. People who touch type for long periods of time will attest to the fact that the ergonomics of typing are essential in order to type accurately and fast. Keep your posture upright, and keep your wrists parallel with your fingers as you type. Allowing your wrists to sink below your fingers can make your wrists sore and can even impact the accuracy of your typing.
  • Test your speed periodically to see how you’re progressing. There are several online typing tests available that will help you measure the speed and accuracy of your typing skills.

When it comes to professional translating, it’s not just about fluency in language. In fact, translators need a diverse set of skills to excel in their field. While it certainly takes some time to master these skills, the end result is well worth the effort.