|[Footprints in sand*]|
Professional translators must not only to be proficient in the languages they work in but also maintain that level over their career. Attaining proficiency generally involves some combination of intentional action, e.g., studies, and life circumstances, e.g., living in places where people used a language. By contrast, keeping both languages up to par requires conscientious effort as the geographically distant language receives less reinforcement. However, it is possible to overcome that disadvantage to a large degree through active exposure, oral and written. The benefit of such an effort is a long, successful career in translation.
In terms of convenience and being up-to-date, the various forms of media provide ideal passive reinforcement. Whether through television, radio or YouTube, to name a few, a person hears authentic language unaffected by local peculiarities This language is often the most updated, at least for a specific age group, because it intends to be communicative. It also requires little active effort beyond turning the TV or computer on, being available on countless Internet channels. By regularly watching such programs, translators can keep updated on changes in vocabulary and structure as well as maintain their ear.
However, since the oral media generally aim at the general public, reinforcing higher level language involves reading newspapers and books. Newspapers, especially those with a higher standard of writing, generally use more formal language than television, thus strengthening the internal feel of correct language. Books and professional journals firm the benchmarks for translating formal material in the relevant fields. A person must be interested and regularly invest time and effort to make a habit of reading more professional material but the reward is updated knowledge and enriched language. Regular active reading of well-written language is the most demanding of all the means but also the most productive form of reinforcement.
Personally, I practice all three to the different techniques. I not only regularly use English in all my oral and written communication as a translator, I also teach English at the local engineering college, which requires me to have thorough knowledge of English language structure. I also watch UK and French TV through an Internet site, providing almost daily exposure to current language. Furthermore, I have a subscription to the weekly magazine Le Canard Enchainé, which keeps up to date on events in France and reinforces my vocabulary. Alas, my Russian, despite the great number of Russians with whom I interact with, has not kept up with the times. As I tell my customers, my Russian is “Breznevian”, i.e., from the 1970’s. As a result, essentially, I translate certificates from Russian as bureaucratic Russian has not changed much in a hundred years. In these ways, I try to keep my languages up to date.
This commitment to maintaining and even improving knowledge of all applicable languages is a key to a long, successful career. Not only does it keep them up to standards, it also provides personal satisfaction. After all, the reasons a person chooses to learn foreign languages and become a translator generally includes a love of language, which does not fade with time. By keeping all their languages firmly rooted, translators can stand up proudly for their profession.
* Captions help the blind access the Internet.
All pictures through Pixabay.