Translation

Why I Blog About Translation

I have been feeding this blog for five years already. Although a quick glance at the archives will indicate my choice of topics is, at best, erratic, there is definitely a method to my madness. I blog about translation and terminology, about the trade, the tools, and the industry, about the skills required, and any related topics capable of showing other aspects of the trade and their practitioners.
The profession is still obscure, translation is still a semi-hidden step in the communication process (and an expensive one at that) performed behind closed doors.

Through the madness, I aim to demonstrate how relying on appearances is deceiving: translators are trained, they are experts, they are more than “just bilingual people”. Translation requires knowledge, honed skills, the mastery of at least two languages, and expertise. In today’s world, translators’ skills are downplayed, considered with skepticism, and devalued.

I long decided I did not want to preach to the choir; I aim to educate, to inform, to right the wrong perception, to define with simplicity, to give an insight into the complexity of translation, to bring to light which skills are used and how translating requires more than sitting down with a bilingual dictionary and writing a string of equivalent words in the right order.

I try, as well as I can, to give visibility to the complexity of translation. Equivalent words, equivalent terms and idiomatic expressions are only the top of the iceberg.

Have you ever heard of “meta language”?

[Gasp] Is this a new word?

New? No, it is not a neologism, but abstract, cryptic, and invisible are very accurate epithets for it and translators are sensitive to it. To the best of their ability, they transpose one metalanguage in a given language into a metalanguage in another language. They read on a level few people pay attention to and they write in that same level. Translation is complex, deeper than “Bonjour/Hi”, and full of traps easy to fall into if performed by an untrained practitioner.

My blogging strategy could qualify as hazy and reaching my target audience, albeit the broadest one I could find, is not easy. Blogs on translation mainly attract those who are interested in the topic (translators, linguists, word and language lovers, teachers, etc.). Aiming to educate and to raise awareness of the “layman” quickly becomes preaching to the choir and a complete waste of time and energy and yet, efforts must be made. Translators do not get nearly their due recognition and respect. How often do people with no training question the work of translators? Too often.

The only two blog posts I wrote that hit their targets were: Words, Terminology, and Translation and How to Validate Your Terminological Choice . The first blog post was shared on a blog (Inmyownterms.com) written by a certified terminologist and picked up by Scoop.it. The second one was also picked up by Scoop.it. Ironic how blog posts on terminology received more attention the ones on translation.

In other words, translation is far from a popular topic. If I relied solely on Web traffic, I would not pursue blogging. I want the information out there, a way for people to grasp there is nothing easy in translating eight hours a day. It is mentally exhausting. The task is actually tedious if your love for words and accuracy fail to motivate you. If people knew how much time translators spend on terminological research and double checking to validate the terminological choice or the wording they used, how accuracy and faithfulness matter to them, how much effort they put into excellence, they would be portrayed in a light that would reflect their professionalism.

Nobody argues with the neurosurgeon or the heart surgeon [even the dentist] on how long it takes to perform a specific surgery, and no one gets impatient to the point of rudeness when the surgery takes longer. Nobody argues with the lawyer when he says he had to research and it took longer than expected, especially when he wins the case. Why is it any different with translators?

Instead, work providers too often give translators too tight turnaround time and translators end up having to do the best they can within the allotted time they are given. All parties lose when quality gets sacrificed in the name of meeting deadlines. It should never be the case.

Education remains the most effective weapon against ignorance.

Related posts:

Why Being Bilingual is not Enough to Be a Translator

The Translation Process

Translation vs Interpretation

Advice for Young Linguists who Want to Be Translators

3 Unexpected Ways a Translator Can Help You

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