What a Translator Wants

8 Mar

Once upon a time, dear reader, I trained to become a translator.  I studied it intensively for two years, with a translation internship in Mexico sandwiched between both years of study.  Though I continue to accept less than 10 translations a year now that I am a full-time marketing professional, I still am a member of the American Translators Association and the Northern California Translators Association, both of which do good work advocating for translators and promoting professional opportunities.  Translators are used to ranting and raving among themselves about different trends they see in the industry, but for the marketing folks, let me let you in on a few tidbits that the translators would like you to know.

– Translators and interpreters do different jobs. Below, at left, you’ll find an interpreter at work:



And below is a translator at work.



See the difference? Visual aids make things so easy. Translators render written text from one language to another, usually with a computer, often from home, and more often than not, in one’s pajamas. Interpreters, on the other hand, work with spoken language. Person A says, “Me duele la panza”, and the interpreter then says to Person B, “My stomach hurts”. And then Person B, usually a doctor, diagnoses Person A, usually a patient.

Translators use dictionaries, glossaries, translation memory tools, and often work with an editor while completing a large translation. They must have strong writing skills in their native language (translators always translate into their native language). Interpreters must know both technical knowledge (i.e. legal terminology) and slang, and be able to interpret it fast. Strong memory skills are a plus.

Lastly, I’d like to discuss a term that seems to have entered the marketing lexicon recently.  It makes my blood boil, so let’s just deal with it now: transcreation.  Somewhere along the line, someone came up with the idea that translation refers only to the literal translation of one word to another, whereas text that requires some adapting or reworking is not translation- it’s transcreation.  Translation refers to ALL types of translation, even when puns, jokes, double entendres, slang, legalese and other types of language that are tricky to translate are involved.  Transcreation is a fancy new name for something translators have always done and continue to do- use their knowledge of the source language to produce a readable translation in the target language, communicating the same idea. Punto.

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