My wife and I hosted a group of translators and editors at our house this last week. Some seven colleagues travelled to Karmiel for an evening of conversation and enrichment, enriched by a short lecture by Uri Bruck on websites and Internet strategy. The group brought together a wide range of specializations, from literary to CNC as well as a wide variety of backgrounds. It was a pleasant and fruitful gathering.
Upon analysis, the most striking element shared by the participants was the fact that everybody had “fallen” into translation after a successful career in something else. Otherwise phrased, each translator had acquired a body of knowledge in specific fields, including its lingo and techniques, and then began translating. Some of the previous (and current) lives that came up included nursing, teaching, machining and planning. While today more young people study translation as part of their initial higher education, traditionally translation has begun as a second career.
However, the timing of this choice is actually an advantage. When asked by aspiring translators about the elements of success in this business in the age of Google and machine translation, I emphasize this point: you have to be expert in some field in order to carve out a niche. Language and process are unique in each field of endeavour. Once a person becomes a maven in an area, however narrow that field, the quality of the translation will lead to success. Linguists that do not understand a field, no matter how skilled they are in search techniques, simply cannot produce the same quality translation. By contrast, people with language skills can learn translation techniques at any time.
The old Carnegie Hall joke, “How to you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice!” applies in a different way to translation. How do you have a successful career as a translator? Practice something else. Then practice translation.
Photo by Ashley Batz on Unsplash