Translator´s job: is it really that easy?




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    I spent five years of my professional career in a company where my boss was absolutely sure that everybody could be a translator. Do you speak Russian? Perfect! So, you can translate! First, we were few translators there, but then our department needed expansion, so we started to search for new people. Oh, it was a headache. My boss came up with the CVs of lots of Russian expats without any linguistic or philological foundation: cashiers, cleaners, drivers… The most important thing for my boss was that they were natives. I respect all the professions and occupations, I myself had to work as a cleaner in a bank during my university years, but, really in that case, I just couldn´t stand it. How on Earth could we explain to our boss that not everybody who speaks the language can translate from or to this language?

    Some months ago I was reading a very interesting book about the translator´s profession. The book says this profession is one of the most underestimated in the world. The common opinion is that every native can translate from or to his/her native language, and it is partially true. Nevertheless a professional translator, and, moreover, a good professional translator, has to develop several very important skills in order to provide the proper quality.

    What the main purpose of the translation is? The main goal is that the reader of the translated text should never guess that it has actually been translated. The text should sound perfectly normal for the native of the target language. Is it really so easy to achieve? No, it is not.

    In my humble opinion, in order to be a good translator one should:

    – have high level of general knowledge, be capable and eager to learn something new every day,

    – have strong linguistic or philological foundation or perfect knowledge of the target language in all its aspects (grammar, syntax, spelling, etc.),

    – be able to stay concentrated during many hours straight and provide good quality even with tight deadlines,

    – be quick-minded and effective in problem solving in order to find necessary sources and solutions in any possible situation,

    -have experience or knowledge in several professional areas, be a specialist,

    – be bold and creative,

    – be self-critical, and

    – never stop learning.

    All these skills require thorough preparation, talent and inspiration along with hard work and daily self-criticism. I am not trying to say how cool I am, I just want to express that being a translator is not just about being native and knowing how to write and read.

    You may say, oh, yes, it is older than the world, everybody knows that. My experience shows that it´s not true.

    Being translator is a difficult job, but it is interesting and rewarding, though underestimated. I am proud of being a translator, and I hope that one day this job will receive the recognition it deserves.

    Natalia Sgibneva

    About Natalia Sgibneva

    2 thoughts on “Translator´s job: is it really that easy?

    1. Hi, Natalia! I’m sure many of us have come across bosses, potential clients or even friends and family members who claimed that translating is not a big deal and only requires good knowledge of the language. But we only managed to shrug and express our disagreement. You, on the other hand, managed to list all the characteristics that make a translator “special” in comparison to any native speaker. And it makes all the difference in the world! This list will surely come handy to me the next time someone makes those unpleasant remarks :)

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