The Skills That Every Translator Must Possess
We love watching reality shows here in Australia.
This is obviously not the case. Translation is work that I love, but I’m also conscious of the fact that just because you love something does not mean you will be good at it. For example, I love to play guitar. I am a passable amateur guitarist – but I will never make a living from my playing, because I am simply not talented at it. Everything takes a combination of skill and effort – some of it you can be born with, but every successful person works extremely hard at what they do.
In the business translation field, many folks assume all you need is knowledge of two languages. Once you’re fluent in both, you’re off to the races! This is patently untrue. There are many skills that a good translator must develop:
Reading Comprehension. You have to be able to read the source material and understand it. It’s not simply word in, word out. Knowing the meaning and point of passages is essential.
Research. Even the most experience translator will need to be able to look things up. Not just words in a dictionary, but concepts, local information for target and source texts – there are many things you simply won’t know going in to a job that you’ll need to find out.
Composition. Translation is as much writing as it is mechanical work. You read the source, digest and comprehend it, and then you have to compose it in the target language. Composition skills in both languages is an absolute must.
Finally, you must know what a ‘good’ translation is. This is not simply a matter of your translated text being understandable in the target language. There’s a lot more to it than that. A high quality translation must be many things: Easily understood, well-written, true to the subtleties and spirit of the original as well as the meaning, true to the context of the original in terms of history and culture, and a good translation will make explicit that which is implicit in the original without destroying the meaning.
Thus, creating a good translation is a matter of grammar, vocabulary, and cultural knowledge. You must be familiar with all aspects of the source and target languages in order to render one. A love of languages and even a skill with languages is simply not sufficient.