The Bare Essentials
Myths about Translation and Translators
Translators often face an uphill battle from misinformed clients who have misconceptions about translators and the translation profession. Often, translators have to educate the clients about the industry in order to throw light on the myths that seem to keep on circulating year after year. I have put together a list of the various myths I’ve encountered in my work as a translator.
1. Translators are just people who can speak two or more languages.
This is one of the most prolific myths circulating outside the translation industry. Merely knowing two languages does not mean that a person can translate with those languages. Translation is so much more and non-translators are often surprised by this fact.
2. Translators can translate any subject matter as long as the material is in a language they know.
Good translators know their limitations; they specialise in only a few different, though related, areas, and do their utmost to stay abreast of current trends in those fields. Inexperienced translators often say they can translate anything thrown at them.
3. Translating from one language to another (i.e. Hebrew to English) is the same as translating in the reverse direction (i.e., English to Hebrew).
Some translators can do a fine job translating in both directions, but they are few and far between. Clients often think that translating is the same no matter which direction the translator is going. Translators have dominant languages and it is usually in the best interest of both translator and client for the translator to translate into his/her dominant language.
4. Translators can produce any translation with little or no turn-around time.
Once again, clients often believe that translation is a simple task that can be accomplished quickly. (Clients have been known to request “Just type it in English”…) A good translator lets the client know that translators need sufficient time to produce a quality product.
5. A native speaker is always a better translator than a non-native one.
This is a myth equal in error to that of #1. Merely being a native speaker of a language does not ensure or guarantee that that person will be able to translate adequately. Translation requires discipline, study, and continual practice. A native speaker of a language does not inherently possess all (or even any) of these qualities.
6. Translators can also interpret
Translation is not interpretation and interpretation is not translation. They are not synonymous. Translation is written material; interpretation is speaking. These are two very different skill-sets.
7. A good translator will take whatever payment the client is willing to give.
Good translators have a set price and tend to deviate from it only rarely. Clients will often try to have translators bid against each other for the lowest price; however, when the price gets too low, a good translator will choose not to take the translation because it will not be worth his/her time. Inexperienced translators (or one who might not be that good) will take whatever the client is willing to pay. In short, clients get what they pay for.