Translation: a multi-faceted profession

A translator must be able to wear many different hats. Writer, localisation specialist, proofreader, transcreator, terminologist, teacher … Exactly what are these professions that hide behind the rather broad term of “translator”?

Writer

Being able to transpose a message from one language into another without the reader realising they are reading a translation requires excellent command of the target language. Translators must therefore have creative and imaginative abilities similar to those needed by writers. Furthermore, many translators maintain their own blog which they update in their spare time or to increase the visibility of their services. To diversify their business, some translators also offer web content creation services.

Localisation specialist

Language localisation is the process of adapting content from one culture to another. It is primarily used in the translation of computer software, video games, and websites. To do their job effectively, a translator must accurately map the conventions and mores of one culture to those of another. Localisation is the globalisation phase that aims to transform a product in such a way that it gives the impression of having been created locally. A good translator must perform solid socio-cultural research in order to get as close as possible to their target audience through metamorphosis of the finished product. Furthermore, a localisation specialist must possess the necessary computer skills to create language tags, convert graphics and web page formats, currencies, times and dates, etc.

Proofreader

To ensure a translation is precise and accurate, it is essential that it be proofread and edited by peers. Proofreading takes place in two stages. Firstly, the proofreader corrects spelling and grammatical errors which may have escaped the attention of the translator. Secondly, the proofreader compares the source text with the target text in order to spot any omissions, shifts in meaning, or—what is worse—incorrect meanings. The translator may also put themself in the shoes of the customer, and judge their colleague’s work solely in terms of comprehension, consistency, and style.

Transcreator

You might recall an article by Pauline from Decker, published here on our blog, that included an excellent explanation of the concept of transcreation. In marketing, transcreation is “a creative process […] that consists of transferring cultural and emotional baggage into a target culture”. In this specific case, the translator must not only master the minute subtleties of the language to understand the scope of a particular phrase or slogan, but must also perfectly understand the two cultures, as well as be creative in order to come up with a new marketing or advertising hook.

Terminologist

Languages are in a constant state of evolution. It is therefore vital to stay abreast of the latest expressions and new terms in order to employ terminology that is well understood, consistent, and up-to-date. Terminology and translation are two closely linked disciplines. A terminologist studies words in the context of an ever-shifting landscape, while a translator applies them to text. This consists of creating glossaries and terminology sheets, and performing in-depth analyses of a domain’s lexicon by drawing on specialised up-to-date documentation. Some translators work in collaboration with seasoned terminologists while others play both roles due to a lack of professionals in this field.

Teacher

Lastly, it’s not uncommon for a translator to also teach language courses. This is often the case with young graduates looking for more experience before launching out at a freelance translator, or to supplement their income. Lets not forget that such individuals have received solid training in language skills, and have often spent time abroad in order to further improve their knowledge of their working languages.

So much for the stereotype of the translator with his or her nose buried in a stack of books!

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