One of the most difficult choices young people face is the choice of their career path. Are language skills all it takes to become a translator? Is perfect command of foreign languages enough to tackle major translating challenges? And what are the qualities of a good translator?
Foreign languages aside – get to know your mother tongue!
The basic prerequisite is an excellent command of language – and this applies not only to the foreign languages. Contrary to appearances, a translator’s mother tongue needs to be mastered as well, which is not that obvious. That is why it is worth recalling the basics of your mother tongue during your foreign philology studies. In this case, the only way to succeed is through methodical work, which will allow expressing your thoughts freely in foreign languages. Although it might seem that fulfilling these conditions is enough to succeed in translation, there are many more crucial skills for a good translator.
Translation – a job for perfectionists who never stop learning
A different set of qualities would foster the development of a translator and of an interpreter. The former must be a perfectionist – translators strive to prepare a perfect piece of work thanks to their ability to focus on their task for a long time, make numerous corrections, and look at the text from many different perspectives. Their impressive diligence shows in the lexical unification of the final piece of work. However, also colloquial texts might occur from time to time, and in this case, additional skills and education are essential – or, at least, readiness to continually expand one’s knowledge. A translator should posess a vast general knowledge, as well as a deep knowledge of the language culture, of both source and target text. This is the only way to guarantee that their translation will be fully understood by readers from the other side of the globe. On the other hand, literary translators should stand out with their creativity – although they should also know its limits.
Interpretation – thrills, adrenaline and acting skills
A different set of qualities will make you an excellent interpreter. Those specialists stand out with their incredible split attention, as well as their excellent focus during their work. A good interpreter is quick-witted and clever, accepts their own mistakes and handles them smoothly. What also matters is a good memory and – though many tend to diminish its relevance – a perfect diction. What’s more, future interpreters should posess good stress management skills, which is a crucial feature for this job. Consecutive interpreters usually stand on the scene next to the speaker, so they should be at ease with public speaking.
Although it might seem that good command of a foreign language and of your mother tongue is enough to do either a translator’s or an interpreter’s job, the reality can be surprising both for beginners as for experienced specialists. This job is hardly predictable – and maybe that’s why so many creative, inquisitive people dream of doing it.