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Features of a good translator - part 1

19 marca 2015

Anyone who loves to learn foreign languages probably thought about becoming a translator. Today’s article is prepared for the benefit of all who dream of working in that profession. I invite to read also all of those who chose a completely different way, but would like to know what is involved in a translator’s work and what skills are required to do the job.

The relevant traits

What can I say – in written translations the best are the perfectionist types of people. Patience, curiosity, conscientiousness, accuracy, ability to maintain concentration for a long time – those are very desirable traits in this profession. Of course, you cannot fall overboard and spend long hours on polishing up each sentence, because in this way we will not earn a lot of money. But if you don’t want to check in the dictionary what the word really means, if you translate sentences word for word, because you do not understand a passage,  or you do not want educate yourself in your field, if you do not take care to maintain consistency in terminology throughout the text and you will neglect  tedious reading out the text before handing them to the customer -  your translations will simply be poor.

translator features

Knowledge of a foreign language (and culture)

Many people seem to have a good knowledge of a foreign language is sufficient to provide a good translation. I cannot agree with that - in my opinion it is an essential condition, but not sufficient (see the other five points in my list). Translators do not need to be prominent orators and speak with a beautiful accent. What really important is primarily large erudition and experience  with different types of texts, which makes we "feel" the language, we see different shades of meaning. Well mastered grammar and vocabulary are the fundamentals (though we don’t need to know all the words in the language – firstly, it's impossible, and secondly, the frequent use of a dictionary is no reason to be ashamed of, but a sign of professionalism). If you want to translate not only from a foreign language into Polish, but in the other direction (and on Polish translation market it is the standard), we must also be able to freely use the written language - write idiomatically, while maintaining the style and register tailored to the situation.