I so clearly remember the times when I had to write school papers and my only references were books that I borrowed from the library and the encyclopedia that I had at home. No Internet, no search engines and certainly no clever search tricks. Knowledge sources were limited to my teachers, parents or friends. If you knew something, you were considered a smart person, if you didn’t… you know the rest.
Today the question of being stupid or smart is not so much about what you know at the particular moment, but rather the ability to find the information you need and decide if it’s correct or not. Practically the whole ocean of knowledge is available for those who know where to look and how to apply the right search tricks.
The ability to search effectively is a skill that everyone should have. And since I work in the localization industry, I find the ability to find references and apply smart search tricks extra important – it’s a skill that I consider a must for translators and quality assurance testers. After all, we can’t know everything, no matter how good we are. But unless you’re looking for information about secret government operations or something, you should be able to find almost anything online, or at least get a hint about where to look for more information.
So where can you look for additional references, as a linguist? Here are some of my favorite search tricks and shortcuts:
1. Microsoft Language Portal
All of Microsoft’s translations are available to the public. You can find a translation for any term that has been used with any Microsoft product. Not a bad idea when you think about it: They want to make sure their terms become standard computer terminology and across countries.
Having a proprietary translation portal is not that uncommon, actually. Check out the European parliament’s list of terms or Intel’s guidelines for translating their trademark names.
2. Localized versions of a company’s site
If you’re translating content for a specific company, see if they already have a localized version of their website. There you can find lots of nice surprises, such as already translated product names, slogans, and more. Of course, you can’t assume that all of the translations are perfect. A company may have hired their own “linguist” – e.g. their accountant’s wife who came from France 15 years ago. That kind of situation is pretty common, especially in Canada, so it’s worth keeping a critical eye.
3. Look for specific terms on specific sites
Are you not sure if your client prefers to use term Y or term X? You can decide which to use by searching their website for these specific terms. For example, if you want to see all Intel pages with the word “stacja”, go to google and search for > site:intel.com stacja.
An even more sophisticated search trick is to search only for pages in a specific language.
4. Check the popularity of terms
Seeing how many people use a specific term online is a valid indicator of how accepted it is. If you get 5 million results as opposed to 10 when you search for a term, you can be assured you can’t go wrong by using it. One word of caution: The amount of content available in foreign languages may be significantly different. While it’s not uncommon to get millions of results for English or Chinese terms, you can’t expect the same number of results for Bulgarian terms, as they only have 6 million people. This method works best for comparing the popularity of different terms in one language.
A simple example: Google users slightly prefer “sofa” to “couch”; “chesterfield” comes in a distant third.
5. Use quotation marks for multi-word searches
Are you looking for a term what has more than one word? Enter it in quotation marks, otherwise you will get any page that contains these words, but not necessarily next to each other.
6. Look up English terms
This is one of the more basic search tricks. So basic that I hesitated to include it, but if it’s beneficial for even one person, it’s worth mentioning. Here is a list of ways to search for English terms:
XZXX definition – For example enter to the search engine “malfunction definition” and you will receive a number of pages that explain the definition, but the first result might be good enough that you don’t have to look further.
VS – use vs for looking up alternatives.
What is/how to – use the “what is/how to” phrase to find an answer you are looking for
7. Get friendly with advanced operators
Lifehacker has rounded up a few more search tricks for looking up specific terms on sites. For example, using the word AROUND will let you to search for terms that are close to each other.
8. Narrow your search results
If your search results come back mainly from one site and you’d like to exclude that site from further search, simply use “-site:URL”. For example, you would like to search for all pages that use the word Microsoft, but you would like to exclude Microsoft pages, search for > -site:microsoft.com microsoft
9. Find archived websites
If you want to look at old websites that are no longer available, use the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to access web content from a given point in the past. It’s quite a neat service if you’re trying to find content you remember seeing that seems to have disappeared.
TM on the cloud, a collaborative project of several multinational corporations with the aim to exchange their translation resources.
A little bit of advanced search knowledge can really add to your efficiency as a linguist. Want to recommend your own tips or resources? Please share your insights in the comments.
11. Google images
Once you search for a term on google images, you will be able to see what the association of this term with various images on the Internet.
This is our complete list of Google Search Tricks. Do you have any of your own that are not on the list yet? Let us know in the comments!
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