If you are a translator, chances are you’ve been already asked this question several times.
If you personally know a translator, chances are you’ve often wondered what do they do all day long.
If you’ve ever hired a translator, chances are you’ve asked yourself what the heck were they doing with your texts and why did it take so long to translate them and how did they come up with that price.
So, what does a translator do exactly?
- They translate words and sentences, obvi!
- They localise concepts, puns, and references. Sometimes, a literal, word-by-word translation is perfectly fine. Other times, the translator will need to change something: there might be a word with no equivalent in the target language, a concept that is obscure in the target culture, a wordplay that wouldn’t be fun if translated literally, or a reference that calls for an explanation in order to be understood by the new audience.
- They proofread the original texts. A text’s most attentive reader is its translator. They’re highly likely to read, scan, analyse, and eviscerate every single word even more than the author did! So, if there’s an error in the source texts, they’ll find it.
- They build bridges while remaining invisible. Ultimately, translators enable people with no common language to communicate with each other. They allow you to read and understand the last novel of a Hindi writer, the yummy recipe of a French chef, the dialogues of a Swedish movie… and the list could go on and on. At the same time, however, they remain invisible! If you notice that something has been translated, if something doesn’t read as if it had been originally written in your language… then that translation could certainly be improved.