Regarding the researching I mentioned yesterday, here are some of the tools that I’ve found most useful so far, as a translator, a linguist, and a writer:
WordReference: Congratulations. You now have a basic bilingual dictionary, completely searchable, including both the Oxford bilingual dictionary (usually — depends on the language combination) and entries on phrases, idioms, and a myriad of other expressions from users all around the world. Yes, the user-defined fields must be taken with a grain of salt, and the forums are sometimes more hindrance than anything else, but it’s a good place to start. Of course, it doesn’t include an exhaustive list of languages, but they’ve got most of the major ones.
Linguee: This service is just starting out, and so far, it’s just between English and German, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. But what it IS, is a pretty good dictionary combined with a search engine that pulls already-bilingual documents from all around the Internet with your phrase in it, to see how it’s been translated elsewhere. Right now, it’s a lot of EU and UN documents, as well as some multinational companies, so it’s not going to help for non-commerce requests. It’s still hit or miss, but it promises so much more as it grows!
Oxford English Dictionary and Historical Thesaurus: Their online databases are a paid service, but I would bet you anything that your library offers a way to login for free (NYPL members, go here). And oh, the rich detail in the entries! The dictionary is the best in the English language. The thesaurus gives you every word that could possibly ever be linked with your chosen word, in a convenient tree form. (According to them, every word in the English language can be filed under three categories: the external world, the mind, and society.)
A monolingual source dictionary: Even as a translator, this is an invaluable resource. When you come across a word you don’t know, or aren’t quite sure how it works in that particular context, look it up in your source language first. See if you can figure out what it means for yourself, then try to find a good translation on your own, before relying on someone else’s ideas.
Listservs/LinkedIn groups/other: These are your personal connections with colleagues when you work from home. Right now, I’m on…five lists? I think? Two French lists, one literature list, one business list, one local translators list. Yes. Five. Invaluable for keeping sanity intact and asking questions that you should know the answer to, but don’t, for whatever reason. Also, general commiseration and congratulations, when the time warrants it.
There are more, of course, but more entries of resources will inevitably follow. For now, I’m off to use my own list!