Leila Howden Translations

Being a translator

by | Feb 10, 2020 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

As my introductory blog I thought it would be useful to gain a bit more insight into what it entails to be a translator.

When you first start out as a translator you are unsure of the fine line between translating and re-writing elements of the original text in your translation. Too strict a translation will leave the text sounding horribly unnatural and too “free” a translation and you are going to move too far away from the original text and possibly lose the original meaning.

There can be a lot of stress on a translator depending on the subject matter, in sticking to the text sufficiently and fairly. Some subject matters have a lot of set terms (terminology) and phrases (phraseology), which means there is little flexibility when translating. However, if you look at something like poetry or marketing, there are other expectations of the translator in these areas.

A translator is not just a word to word converter. A translator has to learn to specialise in certain areas so they can be aware of the terms and concepts. They may also need to play other roles that aren’t actually within their job description. We are expected to be lawyers, doctors, marketing assistants, psychologists, biologists, surgeons, coroners, technicians, chemists, engineers…the list goes on…

So, the translator has to adopt specific styles to suit the audience for each different type and genre of text. Sometimes the client wants a document translating which is also a marketing tool, or perhaps a covering letter or CV. In this instance rewording and extra freedom of translation is required for the translator.

Language-specific word play can be hard to translate into English. Similarly, there are words that do not have a translation at all in English and are a concept in themselves or have a longer descriptive meaning. Here the translator has to really put their thinking cap on to create something spectacular.

Translators are very meticulous and also quite self-critical, as we spend a lot of time looking at our own work and reviewing it. We could review our translation far too many times if deadlines allowed and we may still not be “happy” with the final version.

We are taught to take time away looking at the text for at least a matter of hours, preferably 11 or 24 hours, to ensure that we see the translation with fresh eyes. This allows us to check for any errors, omissions and to read it through to see how it flows. It is amazing how you stop seeing things in a text if you spend too long working on it without a break.

When looking for a translator the more time you can give them, the better the translation will be. Rush jobs, really are rush jobs. Translators do put heart and soul into their work, and we are very proud of our work. We will work crazy hours to complete the work to our best, but that doesn’t mean that we should. The work we produce is always going to be best if we haven’t been too rushed and have had time to reflect on it, as I mentioned.

Thank you for taking time to read this first blog.

In the next blog we will be looking at some terms used in the translation industry to help you get to grips with the language.