Monday, July 5, 2010

My July newsletter "News from InTrans Book Service" highlights publications that deal with medical vocabulary, or with building better vocabulary. E-mail me at if you would like to receive a copy

Besides speaking at least two languages, an interpreter or translator needs a very extensive vocabulary. My previous blogs have highlighted publications that can help you increase your general vocabulary.

Now, I would like to point out a few essential medical dictionaries to help you build vocabulary in that field. It is hard to say what is the best medical dictionary. The Stedman, the Dorland, or the Mosby's... These are the three most used dictionaries, every one of which has its own strong and possible weak points.

Here I would like to go a little deeper into the two larger Spanish, bi-lingual dictionaries. The Stedman is often preferred over the Mosby. The Stedman is a straightforward one volume bi-lingual, bi-directional dictionary and easy to work with. The Mosby consists of two volumes. Volume 1 and part of Volume 2 are the dictionary. You look up the head word in Spanish, with the English translation followed by an extensive explanation of the term in Spanish. Contrary to the Stedman, the Mosby has many illustrations. The dictionary part is followed by a complete bi-lingual and bi-directional glossary. Included with the book is a CD-ROM containing a monolingual anatomical atlas.

A third option for an extensive reference work is the monolingual Spanish Dorland in combination with the English Dorland. Although the editions are not the same, they still can be used very well as a bilingual resource.

If you have a favorite, let me know and your comment will be posted here. The ones just mentioned are the most complete dictionaries in the medical field but if you have no need for such an extensive reference tool, following are a few (Spanish) bilingual dictionaries that are good and friendly to your wallet.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Sometimes I do feel a little handicapped when I want to point out why certain Spanish language books are pearls. This was in particular the case when it came to explaining the difference between the Redes Diccionario combinatorio del español contemporáneo and the Diccionario combinatorio práctico del español contemporáneo. When the "Práctico" came out I thought it more a condensed version of the first. But when talking to my customers it became apparent that there was much more of a difference than that. It appears that, and I quote my contact at the publishing house Editorial SM, "the main difference is that the "Redes" analyzes language structures and combinations from a theoretical point of view. The "Práctico" puts more emphasis on language use (and is therefore more practical), and also has more entries (14.000 whereas the "Redes" has 8.000). The "Redes" is more useful for people studying Spanish language at a higher level. "Práctico" is for less specialized 'users' of Spanish, more for those interested in using the language properly."

For those readers interested, the publisher also provided me with an article in Spanish by Yolando Lozano from Editorial SM that gives an in-depth explanation of the difference between the aforementioned titles. To read the article, please click here

Whether you are seriously into language acquisition or want to get a good grasp on the proper usage, these books are invaluable and come highly recommended by my customers. In particular the "Practico" is a must have for non-native Spanish speakers. As a non-native English speaker, I frequently consult the English equivalent The BBI Combinatory Dictionary of English which recently came out in a new, revised and expanded 3rd edition.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

How often does it happen that you encounter a saying in your mother tongue and wonder how to translate it and capture the core. I sometimes make my own just for the fun of it. I like to translate the Dutch idiom “Open deuren intrappen”, which means “to say the obvious”, to “kicking in open doors” and rarely I get the sense that people know what I am trying to say. Many translators are looking for the book with the right translations for their sayings, phrases, word combinations or idioms. And now there is an excellent book that covers this vast landscape of everyday expressions, at least for the Spanish speaking among us. It is the Ultimate Spanish Phrase Finder by Whit Wirsing. 75,000 Phrases, Idioms and Word Combinations from English into Spanish and vice versa. It is an absolute jewel of a book. But no book can cover every idiom and I have found several common sayings in both the Dictionary of Proverbs by Delfín Carbonell Basset and the 2001 Spanish and English Idioms by Eugene Savaiano and Lynn Winget that did not make it Whit Wirsing’s book. I when I look at Proverbs, Idioms and Expressions: A Guide for Interpreters and Translators by Leonor Valderrama de Sillers, I find the same idioms with a different translation.

Related and also very useful tools are books that help us out with word combinations. An excellent example is the English BBI Combinatory Dictionary of English a guide to collocations and grammar, now in its third edition. It teaches the reader a.o. how to combine words with words to form phrases and this book will give you plenty of examples that can serve as models for your own use of English. The book comes highly recommended by many. Two very good and extensive books on this subject in the Spanish language are the Redes, a combinatory dictionary of contemporary Spanish, and the smaller version Diccionario combinatorio práctico del español contemporáneo. Las palabras en su contexto. For those interested, these books can give you hours of reading pleasure while strengthening your knowledge of the language.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Certain types of books are always high in demand, and with good reason. One is the synonym dictionary. A good dictionary of synonyms is an absolute must for a translator or an interpreter. Interpreters very often ask me what kinds of books I have or would recommend in order for them to prepare for the Federal Certification Tests. The FCICE puts out a handbook and companies like Berkana and ACEBO can provide the interpreter with important practice material, but essential for success is vocabulary, the knowledge of idioms and correct use of grammar.

Here I would like to highlight a few titles that have received excellent reviews from customers.

For English there are The Synonym Finder by J.I. Rodale, Roget's International Thesaurus and Roget II - The New Thesaurus. I prefer the Roget II because it is a straight alphabetical dictionary whereas the Roget's International is indexed by category and The Synonym Finder, though very good, is a little too bulky.

For Spanish there are also quite a few very good dictionaries for sinónimos y antónimos that can be found on my web site. I would like to mention four books that have proven to be very popular. Diccionario de sinónimos y antónimos del español actual (Pequeño) and the larger desk edition Diccionario de sinónimos y antónimos del español actual. These two dictionaries have a clear lay out and a large number of entries. They give a good grasp of contemporary Spanish and are attractively priced. An absolute favorite and required text for Prof. Alexander Rainof's translation/interpretation courses is the Diccionario de ideas afines by Corripio. A very effective and comprehensive tool with over 400.000 entries. The Diccionario Oceano de Sinónimos y Antónimos (con CD-ROM) is divided in two parts, the first being a straight A-Z listing of both synonyms and antonyms (400,000). The second part consists of a scientific-technical vocabulary(6,000 terms) , a multilingual vocabulary (10,000 terms), idioms (1,000), foreign words (1,000), quotations (600) and popular sayings (2,000). And lastly Diccionario de sinónimos y antónimos (ESPASA). This desk size dictionary is alphabetically arranged in clear type with antonyms in cursive. If price is no objection, this would be my favorite.

All publications, including those put out by Berkana and Acebo, are available at

Sunday, April 4, 2010

This blog will be a place to find out about new publications in the fields of translation and interpreting, and other related news. I hope that the books discussed will generate comments, positive and negative, that will benefit the community.

I am the owner of InTrans Book Service, Inc., a company that caters to the professional translator and interpreter. As such, I travel to many conferences and seminars where I display a selection of the books that I carry. Without fail there will be a customer who picks a book off the shelf and starts raving about its quality or points out its shortcomings. I would like to highlight those books recommended by peers. Feel free to add a like or a dislike. Your colleagues may benefit.

Since we all work with language, I thought it appropriate to start with two books on the English Language. First is a little book called Anguished English by Richard Lederer. This 177 page book is full of "accidental assaults upon our language" and hilarious grammatical blunders, errors one wants to avoid. In order to prevent them you may want to also take a look at the second book, William Zinsser's On Writing Well, a little gem that offers the reader all the fundamental principles of the English language needed to become a better writer.

Both books are available from InTrans Book Service but can also be found at any good, preferably independent, bookstore. Support your local bookstore, it may not be able to give you a discount, but you will surely find superior advice and excellent customer service.