Translation competence is a collection of skills and metrics for judging them that analyses translation work at a much finer level than simple success or failure.
One of the great joys of growing into a mature adult is the ability to make your own judgements about everything. This can be frightening: Being wrong can lead you to humiliation and other negative consequences, after all. On the other hand, if you’re a professional who claims some expertise in your field, you have little choice but to establish your own point of view on the fundamentals of your field, or else you’re just following in other people’s footsteps. It’s certainly fine to agree with prevailing thought after you’ve made your own investigation – as long as it becomes your own thoughts and not someone else’s.
For me, one of these fundamentals I’ve been thinking about is the concept of “Translation Competence.” This is one of those terms that is difficult to define for many, but my chosen definition is very simple: Translation Competence is the collection of skills that allow you to produce professional, world-class translation work that adheres to client specs and passes the “local” test in your target region.
Going Beyond Language Translation
That’s the significance of the term “translation competence” in my mind. Anyone who is reasonably fluent in two languages can perform translation. Without any specific training, someone who grew up in a household that spoke both Spanish and English would be able to take a text written in English and translate it into Spanish, and the work would have to be called translation. But how to judge it in terms of quality and effectiveness?
Many people talk about “successful” translation, but this is a binary model with only two choices. Translation is a subtle science and you cannot have a simple pass/fail system – there are too many gradations in-between.
And so, translation competence is a metric design to capture that subtlety. The concept, for em – and here is where I may step away from others on the subject – is a collection of metrics that rate translation work on a variety of levels, and the skills that map to these metrics. In the translation competence model, then, the actual translation of words from one language to another is the first and most basic metric – does the translation make sense? If not, there’s no need to proceed. After this pass/fail, however, we can begin to judge the work more carefully.
Does it have the right tone? Is the style in line with the source? Is the use of slang or local expressions accurate and up to date? Is there a mastery of proverbs and metaphors? These metrics continue down into finer and finer territory, judging the success of the translation in a way that a simple “good” or “bad” can never do.
As professionals, of course, we all strive for a very high level of translation competence both in our training and abilities and in the translation work we produce. It’s good to always remember the modern world depends greatly on our abilities.
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