As a translator, it can be a little daunting, sometimes, when you consider that in most situations everyone is counting on you and you alone to open a window between two worlds and accurately communicate ideas and concepts from one language to another.
You Can’t Know Everything
What adds to the stress, of course, are the limits of your own personal experience and knowledge. No one can know everything, after all, and chances are at some point in your translation career you’ll find yourself being asked to translate under circumstances you’ve never dealt with before, or subject matter you’re not familiar with. When these moments happen, you can’t surrender to nerves. Sometimes you just have to fake it.
An Expert at Translating, But...
Keep in mind that when working on a translation project, you are the expert. The material you’re working with may be unfamiliar to you, but the work of translation is something you are very, very good at. Let’s say you’re brought in to translate the signed statement of an expert witness in a criminal trial – the subject matter is technical and not something you’ve ever studied.
You will have that Moment of Doubt.
The key thing to remember is, that Moment of Doubt is not only normal, it’s healthy. That kind of fear of failure is what motivates us to exceed our own limitations. And often acting confident is the first step in overcoming that doubt.
Remember, you are the expert here. Take steps to make your faked confidence a reality and give yourself every possible advantage:
Do your research. Often a subject that appears impenetrable at first glance becomes much less mysterious with just a small amount of background. Get enough rest, and review past successes. Dive in and get to work – you can always do extra, targeted research as you encounter difficult concepts, and you’ll often find that context helps you more than you might think.
Keep in mind that your work will get progressively easier as you not only gain more background knowledge through research, but also as you gain command of the work you’re translating.
Don’t Fear Jargon
The most important thing to remember is: Don’t fear jargon, which is commonly encountered in technical documents. Jargon is specialized language that separates those initiated into from the rest of the population even if they speak the same language, so don’t be intimidated if you’re not familiar with it at first blush, because no one is.
The key here is that you have the tools as a translator to quickly absorb and comprehend jargon in a manner few people can. And once you’ve done that, the rest of the work is business as usual.
Still, getting to business as usual can be a challenge. In order to get there, don’t be afraid to fake it for a little while – in the end, that confidence will be real enough!