10 misconceptions about translators
If you are a translator, these misconceptions will make you both smile and grumble. If you are a client and you ever needed translation, then at least one of them has crossed your mind. This article aims to explain why these 10 misconceptions are wrong (literally – they are insulting to the professional translator).
Being a translator is a job as old as time. It is that invisible unit that globalizes the world and thanks to which no border is impossible to cross.
No. 10 – Any person who has secondary foreign language education (or mother tongue) can translate.
What is perceived as excellent command of a language – whether mother tongue or a foreign language – varies depending on the purpose of this language’s application. Most foreign language schools in Bulgaria offer their students thorough preparation and they often claim to have acquired better knowledge of the language in high school than during higher education. This, however, is a misconception because the educational programmes in the two institutions are fundamentally different. For example, thigh schools emphasize the lexical and grammar knowledge of the language in a more general sense, while universities, with their philological and pedagogical programmes, teach linguistics, phonetics and phonology, literary theory, morphology, lexicology and syntax, translation linguistics, or in other words – the language is studied in depth – professionally. Students are taught how to translate and teach, not mere language skills. Now, that is a whole other discipline.
“The best thing on translation was said by Cervantes: translation is the other side of a tapestry.”
No. 9 – Good translators don’t need dictionaries.
Beginner translators and those who have no professional experience, just like most clients probably, believe that a good translator doesn’t need to use dictionaries. Just the opposite. The better you know a language, the more you realize how much you have yet to learn, and that every language is infinite in itself because it is a living organism that evolves continually along with its host nation. Every self-respecting professional translator has all basic and thematic dictionaries in their specialized area.; Мoreover, translators use a variety of electronic sources that are reliable and regularly maintained and updated. A professional translator is always dubious and always doublechecks; plus he or she always keeps a synonymic dictionary handy.
“Even the simplest word can never be rendered with its exact equivalent into another language.”
No. 8 – There is no difference between translation and interpreting.
Interpreting is an extremely demanding discipline, especially when it comes to interpreting at summits and conferences on a high diplomatic level. It takes excellent command of both the source and target language, extensive experience, knowledge of terminology in the field in which the translation is carried out and, last but not least, profound general knowledge. Unfortunately, people tend to think that conversational skills in a language are sufficient to translate anything and confuse this knowledge with the skill of professional interpreting or even equate it to conducting a professional written translation. This is why translation and interpreting are often thought to be the same.
“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. This is the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
No. 7 – Translators don’t mind working at night and on the weekend without extra payment.
Professional translators are people who work full-time and in order to reproduce texts with high quality, and, of course, live a normal life outside their job, try to work 8 hours a day like everyone else. You must have heard (or you are one of them yourself) of translators who work after their day job, at night, for hours after their eight-hour working day. Yes, indeed there are such professionals, too. However, this happens mostly because they are either finishing something they have started, which can’t be delayed, or are really into the text, document or book they are translating and are feeling particularly inspired.
When they are asked to finish something within an impossibly short and urgent deadline, this should be appreciated by the client as such and be rewarded accordingly. Every professional translator and every client therefore must know that frequent, continuous, overtime intellectual work leads to the translator’s fatigue and diminishes the quality delivered. Professional translators should have the opportunity to rest regularly and find time for self-improvement, sports and cultural activities, which are so important for their professional development.
No. 6 – Translators don’t need to understand what they are translating.
Translators need to understand what they are translating. As great of a professional a translator may be, the client could not expect him to presume or guess what the author of the document intended to say. If the meaning of the text or document is confusing, incorrect, poorly written or parts of the text are missing (for example parts of the words were cut off when copying the document), we couldn’t expect the translator to be able to guess the entirety of the source text. The person assigning the text must be certain of the quality of text, or if they don’t know the language of the text, they should calmly accept the translator’s recommendation and bring the document or text back to its author. Translators are truly very intelligent people, but they aren’t fortune tellers.
“A translator, like a witness on the stand, should hold up his right hand and swear to ‘tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
No. 5 – A good translator doesn’t need editing or proofreading
Every translation requires editing and proofreading (because there are two separate processes). And this isn’t because someone is trying to overwrite the work of the translator. Editing is a needed process, in which the editor checks for translation inaccuracies, wrong terminology, missing sentences and words, spelling and punctuation. Proofreading is necessary, because after editing, if the editor has complemented or corrected a larger body of text, it is possible that they have made spelling or punctuation mistakes. Neither process aims to correct the translation stylistically (unless it is really necessary). Qualified editors don’t rewrite the translation, they make it perfect. Excellent translation quality is accomplished in three steps – translation, editing, proofreading.
“There can never be an absolutely final translation.”
Robert M. Grant
No 4 – Becoming a translator is an easy way to become rich quick.
Like any other occupation, becoming a professional translator takes a lot of studying, practice and constant self-improvement. A beginner translator has a lower work capacity – not more than 3-4 pages of quality translation per day. This is strictly individual, of course, but it should be taken into account that novice translators need a lot more time to make sense of the source text, research the terminology and the ways of applying it in the text, as well as to put together the whole translation and verify it. A professional translator has the expertise required to use the terminology accurately and promptly while translating and this contributes to the quick recreation of the text in the target language and, therefore, to a higher speed – up to 10 pages of quality translation per day. There are translators who process even larger volumes per day, usually with the help of a translation software, but this is feasible provided that the translator is in his element in the translation field, that the translated text isn’t highly specialized, or there is a prepared glossary, added to the translation software.
How successful a translator is depends not only on the quality of the service he offers, but also on how well the translator presents himself on social networks. They need to clearly outline their specialization and experience with examples, to have excellent computer knowledge and be skilled in working with programs. Other relevant points are also their affordability and, last but not least – ease of communication.
“In translation language facility is not enough; blood and sweat are the secret.”
No. 3 – Translating is simply writing in a foreign language
Writers can definitely confirm that even ‘simple’ writing in one’s mother tongue is a difficult thing itself. Translation isn’t just a process of direct and literal translation It’s a dance between two equal partners – the source language and the target language – and in order for this dance to be beautiful, each of them has to make a sacrifice. The role of the translator is to create the choreography, so that the spectator-reader would. remain unaware of the dancers’ sacrifice.
“Translation is always about making sacrifices; however nothing essential should be sacrificed.”
Enrique Díez Canedo
No. 2 – Why should we pay a translator since Google translate works for free?
We live in a unique technological era. With business globalization, the world requires more and more translations to different languages. The translation industry therefore faces difficulties, which are successfully overcome with the help of translation softwares, but to a significant extent, it makes use of human labour. That’s why giants like Google offer the ‘machine translation’ solution. This type of systems have already accumulated a huge database and it’s true that their translation is becoming increasingly better. However, we shouldn’t forget that it is only good enough to provide a general idea of what’s written, and not for professional purposes like translation of documents, specialized texts, websites, etc . Our advice is not to over-rely on machine translation.
“The ideal reader is a translator. He/she is able to pull a text to pieces, remove its skin, cut it to the bone, follow each artery and vein and thence fashion a new living being.”
No. 1 –This marketing material, which took 10 experts and a whole month to create, can be translated in a single night by a single person and still make the same impact like the original
Very often clients expect that the translator will translate a given text in the way they imagine the translation, with the same words and collocations. Of course, this is impossible. Translation is a creative and subjective process and language itself allows using various means of expression. The use of various means of expression doesn’t mean that the translation is wrong. Our advice for the cases when the client has a clear idea about the terminology to be used in the translation, they should express their will and work closely with the translator by approving the termbase, explaining terms and processes of operation/production/education, so that all possible undesirable outcomes can be prevented in time. And last but not least, the translation of a volume requires a certain amount of time for technological processing and it should be mentioned in advance by the translator or the translation agency.
“Without translation I would be limited to the borders of my own country. The translator is my most important ally. It introduces me to the world.”
Author: Nadya Rangelova