Greater than 2 minutes
Lately I have become a little addicted to LinkedIn groups. Of course, most groups I am a member of are for translators. I quite enjoy reading and participating discussions and attempts to save our industry, if not the world. Reading all those comments, one thing struck me: almost every one of them implies that their author is a top-notch translator. “Hurrah!” One might think. All translators who care about the industry enough to join a group and post a comment provide excellent services.
Meanwhile, reading translations I just have to read as part of my everyday life, I get a completely different picture. Bad translations are everywhere. And I’m not talking about machine translations here. So, how does that add up?
Giving it a little thought, it does add up. Smart people know that there is plenty they actually don’t know. Therefore, they continuously strive to broaden their knowledge and experience, to get better and better. They are never satisfied with what they know. They always question their own solutions (in our case translations), and though they are certainly proud of their achievements, bragging doesn’t occur to them, because they know that what they think is perfect may prove to be a complete disaster a few months later when they bump into the right solution they were just unable to find at the time. And that can happen to the best of us.
Then there are translators out there, who know a thing or two, are fairly experienced and confident in their abilities, yet may be ignorant of the special terminology or cultural context of the particular text. Now, this is the dangerous one. Why? Did you notice the word I used? Yep, that’s it: ignorant. Not incompetent or uneducated, just oblivious of a minute thing or two. In the real world it’s not a biggie, as nobody is expected to know everything. Now, this translator gets the text, thinks he can do it with his eyes closed. Then he translates it, he is convinced that it came out just perfect, and delivers it. Chances are that it is not reviewed by a knowledgeable person, if reviewed at all, it just gets out in the circulation. But what if a real expert (might not even be a translator, but actually somebody from the target audience) points out the errors? Been there? Well, I certainly have, and I can only thank that reviewer for opening my eyes not only to the actual shortcomings of that particular translation, much rather to the sad fact that complacency reared his ugly head. Complacency kills, and not only translations.
This is when it downed on me that there is so much I don’t know yet, regardless of how much I do know. So, just a piece of advice, before you learn it the hard way:
If you think you know something, think again.