Becoming a Better Translator - Part 1
No-one was born a brilliant translator!
In order to become a better translator, you must first acknowledge that it takes many years to become really good at any chosen career. No-one was born a brilliant translator! That being said, though the longer you put off professional development the longer it will take you to be able to compete with others in your chosen field, and this is regardless of where you happen to live in the world. The effort you’re prepared to put into your career and the way you manage your time will be key in achieving professional success.
Ongoing Education Is Important
No-one reaches their full potential as a translator the moment they qualify, or even when they finally land their first job. Regardless of who you are and where you are, ongoing education is a necessary process in order to become a true professional. Let’s face it, there’s a lot to learn! So whatever areas of language you’ve decided to specialize in, you need to determine what kind of learner you then devise a plan for your continuing professional development.
Is It Enough Being Bilingual?
The answer to this question is no! Even bilingual interpreters and translators with two mother tongues still need continuing professional development, which includes practicing and studying. For the purpose of this post we’ll explore the group of translators who work with their mother tongue in combination with one, or maybe more, foreign languages they either learned by living in a different country or studied at university.
Is Book Learning Enough?
Obviously, studying and learning from books for any career is always a necessity, but when it comes to translation it’s not 100% reliable. In order to reach a proficient level in a foreign language and become a successful, professional translator, you’ll need a lot more than a vast amount of vocabulary and a knowledge of grammar. What’s missing from a traditional university’s syllabus for potential translators when studying at universities in their home country is the lack of opportunity to become engaged with native speakers of their target language. Your professor will most likely be a co-national, and it’s not likely that any student exchanges will be able to fill the language gap between a native speaker and a non-native one. The result is that your language may end up sounding very ‘bookish’, meaning you wouldn’t be taken for a native speaker. Understandably, this is not your fault, but there are ways of improving this situation if you’ve chosen to specialize in the field of translation.
So, What Makes a Good Translator?
A professional translator is not a machine or a robot. A good translator is a ‘creator’ – they’re experts at maintaining both the meaning and fluency of the original sentence by extracting the most appropriate word combination from their computer database or from their own memory in order to express the original writer’s intention while constituting the most natural language choice in a given context. This is not done by employing unnecessary words just because they happen to be there.
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