Do I ever have questions when I translate a text? Of course I do, lots of times. As a translator, I have to be (or make myself) knowledgeable about the subject matter I’m working on. Linguistic questions come up. Sometimes the source text is not as clear as it should be and it requires high powers of deduction to understand the meaning. But translators have help: monolingual dictionaries, bilingual dictionaries, books and magazine articles in the source and/or target language on the product or process in question. Internet searches for terminology in context – and much more. If all that fails, I can call a colleague, and if none of my colleagues is able to help, I can post a question in a forum or mailing list.
The ATA Chronicle, newsletter of the American Translators Association, has a column called The Translation Inquirer. I usually look at the English/German inquiries and I am often left speechless by what people (translators?) are asking about. Do they not have dictionaries? Have they no Internet connection? As an example, in a recent edition, the following inquiry appeared:
(G-E 5-09.5) In a manual about engine control, the mystery word Dongle appeared. Here is the context: Dialogsoftware (Diskette, Dialogkabel mit Dongle, Handbuch). What is it?
Is this inquirer kidding? Let’s just assume for a moment that this “translator” is so young that s/he has never seen a dongle in the wild, a simple check of the German Wikikpedia entry for Dongle would have given plenty of explanation plus photos of the thing. Clicking on English in the left box Andere Sprachen would have brought up the Dongle entry in the English Wikipedia, and the original question would have been answered. A search for dongle in google.de with the Seiten auf Deutsch option brings up a multitude of sources that show explanations and context, helping to confirm the Wikipedia information.
Mystery word? For me, the only mystery is how this ended up as an inquiry.