The Single Best Lifehack To Improve Translation Vocabulary

  • Time to read: 8 min.

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Do you want to improve your translation vocabulary?

If so, read on.

There is one thing you can do that will improve your vocabulary %1000 if you just do it for ten to twenty minutes a day.

What is it?


All you have to do is read ten minutes a day in each of your languages.

If you read more than that, you’ll increase your translation vocabulary even more.

And this works for any languages you’re trying to improve:

  • German
  • French
  • Japanese
  • Arabic

You get the idea.

This might seem simplistic to assume that all you have to do to improve your vocabulary is to read, but it really is that simple.

Before we talk about how, though, let’s talk about why.

Why Increase Your Translation Vocabulary?

painting of a library bookshelf with a red chair in front of it

Because an improved translation vocabulary will overall make you a better translator.

First, you’ll speed up the time it takes to translate.

All translators have to look up words and their meanings from time to time.

There is no translator out there that knows every word, saying, metaphor, in the languages they work in.

But some translators have a stronger vocabulary than others.

And those translators with increased translation vocabularies will generally translate faster than those with smaller vocabularies because they won’t have to look up or double-check as many words and phrases.

And the faster you can translate, the more money per hour you’ll make as a freelance translator.

Second, the bigger vocabulary you have, the better quality your translations will be.

It’s true.

An improved vocabulary will allow you to translate at a higher level using vocabulary appropriate to the register of the original.

If you don’t have a high register vocabulary, and you’re asked a translate something that has a high register, you will have difficulty translating the document faithfully.

Reading will improve that.

Finally, an improved vocabulary will improve your knowledge of the world around you.

You can read about any subject and improve not only your general knowledge, but your knowledge of a specific topic in either your target language, source language, or other foreign language.

Read enough about that topic and you could have enough knowledge to legitimately market it to your target audience as one of your areas of specialization.

All just from reading about something you’re interested in.

That then begs the next question.

What Kind of Books Should You Read?

Painting of a blue chair in front of a library book shelf

Some people I tell this to get too hung up on the specifics.

What should I read?

What do you recommend?

I don’t know where to start?

Here’s the secret.

It doesn’t matter where you start or what you read.

Anything you that inspires you, moves you forward, relaxes you, provides some entertainment is all good.

It will all help you increase your translation vocabulary.

Most successful people I know, in fact, read several books at once.

They don’t just read one book at a time.

They read books for different purposes, all with the goal of improving themselves.

So that’s what I started doing.

I’ve started to read more and not care too much about what it is, as long as I can attest that it’s helping me improve in some way.

For example, here’s my current reading list:


I currently try to start my day reading something inspirational that can help set the mood for my day.

Currently that’s the Book of Mormon, a religious text used by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

I read about 20 minutes and then try and ponder how I can implement what I’ve read into my life that day.

I usually read this on my phone before I start my day.

It helps me to recognize where my strength comes from and that God is the center of everything in my life.


I also try to read a chapter a day in a business or self-improvement book. I’ve got a whole library of books on my Kindle that I read.

Enough that if I run out of stuff to read, I can easily start over and learn something new from a book I’ve already read.

Two of the most recent self-improvement books I’ve read include Gorilla Mindset by Mike Cernovich and How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life by Scott Adams.

But I’ve also recently read a book on writing, Write. Publish. Repeat. by Sean Platt.

I use to read through these rather quickly but I realized that when I did that, I wasn’t getting much out of them.

Really, I wasn’t retaining much. I’d read them, get inspired, and then forget everything they said.

So now I read them more slowly.

I like to read them one chapter at a time and take notes.

And since most of them are on Kindle, I like to have a notebook with me as I read and take notes in the notebook.

It’s easier to refer to the notes that way instead of trying to type the notes into my Kindle.

As for what I’m reading now, it’s actually a physical book I just got in the mail two days ago.

Choose Yourself by James Altucher.

Fiction/Fun Reading

Before I go to bed, I like to unwind with a little bit of fiction reading.

When I was a kid, I used to read a lot more fiction, mostly Stephen King and Dean Koontz.

But as I got older, I moved away from fiction and focused more on self-improvement.

I realized, though, that reading fiction helps me improve.

It entertains me, it gives me ideas, and it shows me a different way to write.

Plus, someday I’d like to try my hand at fiction writing.

Reading other people’s writing is great inspiration for me and my dreams.

And right now?

A few weeks ago I picked up the Fallen Series by Wayne Stinnett, and indie writer that writes in a style I like.

If you like adventure stories and the Florida Keys, you might like his stories as well.

I don’t read this every night because some nights I’m too tired and I fall straight asleep. But for those nights when I want to unwind a little, I’ll read a chapter or two of fun reading.

I also will switch this reading up and read Spanish-language fiction books to focus on improving my Spanish language vocabulary.

What About Technical Translation?

If you’re a technical translator, then you probably want to focus on reading things that are related to your field.

This could include books, manuals, articles, and other materials.I would still recommend reading a variety of things, but also make sure to read things that will help you improve in your specific field.

For me, this means I need to read a lot about SEO and internet marketing since that’s my specialty.

I also need to read Spanish-language books on these topics since that’s the language I translate into. But reading is just one part of the equation.You also need to actually use the words you learn in order to improve your translation vocabulary.

This is where a lot of people struggle.They might read and learn a bunch of new words, but then they never use them. The words become forgotten and they’re back to square one.

Where To Find Books To Read?

painting of library bookshelves

So, if you want to start reading, it doesn’t matter what it is as long as it improves your life in some way.

There’s no benefit to reading if it drags you down. You can use reading to improve your second language, learn more definitions, improve your grammar, learn new vocabulary, and become a more professional translator.

All from some written text.

But now you’re wondering where to get books.


Of course, the obvious answer for all things written communication.

There’s a library in every major and not so major city in America.

They collectively have millions of books for you to read as well as tons of other services, like watching translator and interpreter movies.

Every person in America should have a library card and know how to use it to find additional information.

There’s so much knowledge in a single library and it’s scary how few people really take advantage of them.


For reading, Amazon is hands down the best thing to happen to the world.

I have no idea how many books Amazon sells, but when I checked the new releases a while back, these were the numbers:

  • Last 30 days (84,588)
  • Last 90 days (262,013)
  • Coming Soon (14,217)

These were just the ebooks released during the last 30 and 90 days.

That’s a lot of books. And not only in written form. There are audio books, too.

So you have a lot of books to choose from.

And books are really a small expense for the information that you can gain from them. Don’t be afraid to spend some money on books that will improve your life.

Second-Hand Stores

If you want to find cheap books, look at Goodwill or Salvation Army type stores.

You can often buy 5 to 10 books for a dollar.

Same thing goes for garage and yard sales.

Lots of books for cheap.

Remember, the point is to read books that will improve your life and improve your translation vocabulary.

Reading will improve your translation ability and will have a positive effect on your translation skills.

There’s no reason not to do it.

Website with Free Books

There are quite a few websites with free books. The one I use the most is Project Gutenberg. They have over 60,000 free ebooks. They have a variety of books in different languages as well.

So if you want to read in a foreign language, they might have what you’re looking for. You can also find free books on Amazon. Just do a search for “free books” on Amazon and you can find books about anything, including:

  • grammar
  • dialects
  • desktop publishing
  • machine translation
  • literal translation
  • computer science
  • translation memory data

The important thing is to actually start reading. And the sooner you start, the better. When it comes to improving your translation vocabulary, reading is the single best lifehack.

If you want to become a better translator, start reading today. It’s the best investment you can make in your career.

FAQ: Improving Translation Vocabulary

How can I improve my translational skills?

Translation is all about communication. The better you are at communicating, the better your translations will be. So, work on your communication skills. This includes your written and verbal communication skills.

What are the top 3 most important translators skills?

Assuming you want to know what skills are important for a translator, the top three (besides language skills) are communication skills, writing skills, and research skills.

What can interpreters do to increase their English vocabulary?

There are a few things interpreters can do to increase their English vocabulary. First, they can read as much as possible. This will help them encounter new words and learn how to use them. Second, they can use online resources, such as vocabulary builders and dictionaries, to look up words they don’t know. Finally, they can practice writing in English to reinforce the words they’ve learned.

What are the strategies of translation?

There are several strategies that translators use to produce an accurate and effective translation. These strategies include: using a dictionary, paraphrasing, using synonyms, and using context clues.

What are the 5 skills of a good translator?

The five skills of a good translator are: language skills, communication skills, writing skills, research skills, and cultural knowledge.