Is translation an art? Sometimes people ask me what could possibly be so difficult about my work as a translator. Or why I like doing it so much. They even ask me, if there still even are people who work with a translator or a translation agency. Because why use them if you have Google Translate?! Isn’t everyone able to translate their own documents nowadays? Isn’t it just a waste of money to outsource your translation work…?
Reasonable and logical statements. But funny enough it doesn’t work like that in ‘real life’. Think about it. Who has the time during their busy workdays to translate all kinds of documents? And who is 100% convinced that Google Translate can convey the essence of an original document the right way? It only takes one word translated wrongly and the message is completely changed.
The value of correct translations
And how often do we not find ourselves annoyed by the literal translation of subtitles when we are watching our favorite television shows? Also think about technical terms and other professional language, that plays such a vital role in the business world and in our daily lives. Think, for example, about the need for an international company to train their employees the right way. Or the importance of the correct translation of legal, confidential documents, that contain the most important and often life-changing facts of people’s lives. Or helping a client entering a new market by translating their website without offending the target audience in the other country or, worse, not reaching them at all!
Translation is an art of the heart
And that is exactly where we, the translators, come into play. Real humans, with a real passion and often a talent for all the aspects of language. For words, the spelling and grammar of them, the sound they make, with eye for detail and knowledge of the culture where the language they master is being spoken and written. People with the ‘drive’ to make sure that the messenger’s ‘tone-of-voice’ can still be heard and who make it their personal mission to get the message across to the people the message was meant for in the first place.
Translators think for and with their clients and are aware that communication is a skill. They do desk research when need be and will always make sure they understand what they are reading and translating. And when they complete an assignment, they quietly feel proud when they manage to get the message across. Error free. And they feel happy that they were once again able to keep a joke funny and maintain the moral of a story.
Of course, language is universal. And of course, translation machines are very convenient tools. But to build the bridge from one to the other language, from one culture to the other, and to really understand each other by conveying the message truthfully and realistic, translators are key. Translators, who come in all shapes and sizes, with a wide range of knowledge and a healthy dose of curiosity. And that right there, is exactly what makes our job so fun and interesting. No assignment is the same, no client has the same needs. So, if you ask me again, I will proudly tell you that translating is not just a job that anyone can do; translation is an art of the heart 😊
Written by one of the translators for Vertaal.nl: Christiane.
“If you talk to a man in a language
he understands, that goes to his head.
If you talk to him in his language,
that goes to his heart.”
– Nelson Mandela –