Features of a good translator - part 2
Knowledge of a language cannot be separated from the knowledge of the culture associated with it. It is worth to know the literary canon of the country, popular songs, poems for children, or more or less know something about politics, current events, television programs ... of course not in every kind of translation, such knowledge would be required - if you specialize in medical or financial texts, you can make it without it. But while translating all kinds of literary texts, videos, and even newspaper articles such knowledge is often essential.
Knowledge of the native language (and culture)
It would seem that the knowledge of a native language is something bred in the bone. Yet the ability of an elegant and correct expression in a native language is not taken out of nowhere, but it requires a conscious work. Each of us make every day a lot of mistakes, and many of them we are not even aware of. Not to mention the rules of punctuation (commas, oh commas!), the use of uppercase and lowercase letters, variation of names, language calques (which are intensively present in translations) etc. Apart from avoiding errors a good translator should also work on the style and vocabulary enrichment.
Substantive knowledge (and the ability to search for information)
Translation is not about replacing text of one language by text in another language. This is a two-step process. First, we need to understand the source text, which is to determine what the author wanted to say. Then we have to express the meaning in the target language. If we do not have a clue about the subject, the text refers to, we will fall at the first stage. Therefore, translators specialize in particular, specific fields of work. Me, for example do not touch a medical translation, and only exceptionally reach for technical texts, because I simply do not have the appropriate knowledge. I much better feel, for example, in commercial law (though I have no formal training in this area - I learned it from scratch, putting my first steps as a translator).
The knowledge that we have in our head, is not everything. Translators must be able to quickly and efficiently search for information and in an accelerated mode improve their education from a variety of specialized fields. In the Internet era, the basic tool is of course Google - it's worth to learn how to efficiently use it (including advanced search options). Sometimes, however, even the internet is not enough - then you need to grab the phone or visit the library.