One thing I’ve been told quite often before I was a freelancer, or even before I started translating professionally, is “you’re bilingual, why don’t you work as a translator?” It seems obvious for many that the fact you master two languages perfectly automatically makes you able to be a translator. If it was that easy!.
BILINGUAL VS BEING FLUENT
Although I started learning English from a young age by myself (I wanted to understand the lyrics of the heavy metal bands I was listening to at the age of 11, so I can thank Motörhead for my motivation!), and acquiring a good knowledge of the language fast, I never considered myself able to offer my translation services before I gained experience. Working mainly in an English-speaking environment, I benefited from a cultural immersion favourable to me going from fluent to bilingual.
Because you have to make the distinction. Expressing yourself fluently in English doesn’t mean that you perfectly know the language. Actually, someone is considered bilingual when they can switch between two languages without even noticing. From the moment you have to think about which words you’re going to use before you utter anything in your non-native language, you’re not bilingual.
You really need a total mastery and instinctive use of the language to be a translator.
TRANSLATING: FAR FROM WORD FOR WORD
Other than being bilingual, a translator is a text adaptor. No word for word translation with the risk of not making any sense and rendering the text bland. A translator has a knowledge of the origin of words, and also a solid foundation in linguistics in both languages, to choose the right word, the corresponding turn of phrase, always.
They also need to have a good understanding of the references used, and know how to adapt them in the destination language, and technical terms, tone, and politeness level as well. The translator does a cultural adaptation.
TRANSLATION, A BORING JOB?
Far from it! The translator doesn’t sit in front of their text, translating for hours on end. They research to have a better understanding of the subject, they compare etymologies of two words on Google in case of doubt, to find THE perfect word, they eventually read similar texts to soak in the theme… In this light, they are a bit like writers in the writing process!
You probably understood by now that engaging in professional translation just because you are fluent in a language is a future fail! And mostly, if you have a website or content that you use for your business, get in touch with an established translator, your content deserves quality work, and your image will benefit from it! Don’t hesitate to contact me for that!