Translator Training

Essentials for DipTrans Exam Unit 3E Social Science

by | Last updated Jul 17, 2020 | Translator Training

Drawings of different people representing the different social sciences for article on the DipTrans exam unit 3E social-science paper.
There’s more than you may think to passing the DipTrans exam unit 3E social-science paper.
If you’re preparing to sit the IoLET DipTrans exam unit3E Social Science, then this article is for you. Read on for an overview of what to expect. You’ll also find handy tips and useful reference sources.

IoLET DipTrans exam unit 3: the options

Unit three of the DipTrans exam offers candidates the choice between three semi-specialist papers. The papers cover the areas of science, social science and law. Translating a scientific or legal text under exam conditions can be intimidating. That’s why many of the translators who prepare for the DipTrans with me feel social science is their best bet.

One problem with DipTrans unit 3E on social science is that it encompasses a wide range of possible subjects. There’s nothing to say that a translator who has studied history will be comfortable translating a text on economics. And in any case, they may not have suitable reference materials with them.

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Have a plan B for the DipTrans semi-specialist papers

Preparing exclusively for one paper is risky because you have no idea what subject area is going to come up. If you translate in a field you know nothing about, you’re likely to encounter more phrases you don’t understand. You’ll struggle to identify the correct terminology and may not know how writers usually express themselves in the field.

I advise the Spanish-to-English translators who prepare for the DipTrans on my course to be open to doing at least one of the other texts. That way, they have a plan B.

“It’s useful if you picture the person reading your translation in your head as you translate.”

What can you expect from the DipTrans social-science paper?

Social science includes a vast range of subjects, such as sociology, economics, history, linguistics, geography, education, politics, anthropology, communications, environment, religion, psychology, public administration and even law.

The texts in unit 3E of the Diploma in Translation exam tend to be academic articles rooted in the research genre. They’ll likely be written by academics for academics, or for a readership with some sort of specialist interest.

A survey of past papers from the exam shows that, besides journal articles, you can get extracts from the websites of universities and official organisations, newspaper articles, essays, extracts from non-fiction books and even a newsletter.

Style and register for translation in the social sciences

It’s important to consider whether your text has been written for academics or for a more general readership. Note that the majority of texts in DipTrans social-science past papers are articles and not essays. In articles, writers may prefer shorter sentences with a more journalistic style to the heavier academic syntax. They may use less complex terminology, pitching their articles at the level of an educated layperson, rather than a fellow specialist.

The translator must identify the target reader of the English text. They have to write in the style that reader will expect of the publication in question. It’s useful if you picture the person reading your translation in your head as you translate. Then you can make decisions designed for them.

Remember that Spanish syntax can come across as very heavy to an English speaker, even though the original Spanish readers may not have found it that way. This means you may have to break sentences down into shorter units.

“If you find you’re struggling with parts of the text, don’t panic and start writing literal translations.”

Terminology resources for DipTrans exam unit 3E social science

If you have an understanding of the topic, your general dictionaries may be enough to get you through the social-science paper. But this isn’t always the case. Remember this genre is a branch of science. As such, you may find false friends or very precise terms requiring a translation that isn’t obvious. These terms are a stumbling block, which will trip up the unwary. So, make sure you double check in your dictionary if you have any doubt.

Amassing and seeking relevant glossaries beforehand can do no harm. But the wide variety of possible texts makes terminology unpredictable. Clarifying your ideas on how you would deal with the various official Spanish and European bodies may turn out to be a good investment of your time. It may help you in the other papers, too, and will be useful for your translation career. You’ll find this website with a list of Spanish bodies and translations useful for that.

Another tip is to make sure you have sufficient reference materials to understand Spanish abbreviations and render them correctly in English. For instance, “a.C.”, which should be rendered “BC” in British English.

What can you do if you don’t understand something in the social-science DipTrans exam paper?

If you find you’re struggling with parts of the text, don’t panic and start writing literal translations. Try to identify the specific element of the sentence that’s causing you problems. More than likely it will be a single term or grammatical structure. Identify it and isolate it. That way you can stop it having a negative effect on the whole sentence.

Apply sound translation technique and careful proofreading to ensure the majority of your translation is well written. You can find more tips like this in “What Do You Do If You Don’t Understand Something in the IoLET Diploma In Translation Exam?”.

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Specialist reading/reference materials

As a parting gift, you may find the following list of resources useful. But this doesn’t have to be goodbye. Come and train with me on the Advanced Spanish-to-English Translation Course with DipTrans Preparation. You’ll love networking with all the Spanish-English translators in our secret Facebook group. Check out the course page now.

– American Council of Learned Societies. (2006). Guidelines for the Translation of Social Science Texts. is a good source of academic articles on subjects in the field of social science and includes articles in Spanish and English.

– My Words for a Change by Nikki Graham has a comprehensive “Useful Links” section that you should check out.

– A dictionary that may be of interest is: Calhoun, C. (2002). Dictionary of the Social Sciences. New York: Oxford University Press.

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