“Oh you’re a translator! How many languages do you speak?’’ “Do you know the equivalent of <insert incredibly long and complicated word here>?’’ “Oh a translator, like an interpreter?”
Unfortunately, these are the questions that us translators have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. We also have to go through the long and agonizing process of explaining to people that our job is based on more than knowing the equivalent of a word that hasn’t been used since the 18th century.
I once stepped into an elevator with a forty-something man that lives in my building. He casually asked me what I was studying at university, and I always thought that he looked rather well educated. I informed him that I am currently studying translation. With a little smile on his lips, he confidently replied: “Translation? That’s easy you just use Google translate, you’ll have the text in 1 second!” I stepped out feeling rather hurt. I don’t think the man realized he just offended the entire translation community.
Unfortunately, these sad incidents do occur, and my frustration can be understood. This man just summed up my whole career with a machine that can do it faster with no delays or payment.
People need to understand that translation is a consuming process, and it will always demand a human touch. The criteria followed to assess whether a translator is skilled or not should not be based on the knowledge of numerous languages or big words. A successful translator is the one who knows how to mold languages and transmit the same ideas to a public that doesn’t speak a foreign language.
Translation is an activity reserved for the people who are passionate about languages and who spend countless sleepless nights doing what they love.