What is the basic difference between a translator and an author?

When authoring an original text, writers need to make a lot of decisions. These include

  • the subject,
  • which facts to include and leave out,
  • how to present them,
  • what style to use,
  • how long the document should be etc.

Translators don’t need to concern themselves with creating the original text. In fact, their task is to present the given document and transfer its contents, facts, style, presentation, intention and tone into the target language. Most importantly they need to consider how to mimic the original register of that source text and transfer it into the target language. Why? Because┬áreaders of the translated document should not realise that they are reading a translation.

Theoretical knowledge plus practical insights

Translators and interpreters need theoretical knowledge as well as practical insights. They do not only need to know whether a particular word or phrase is an adequate translation for a source word or phrase, they also need to be sure that this translation is the correct one in the context. A degree doesn’t necessarily teach you that; and however good your language skills, you’ll never know every conceivable context. So the bottom line is: don’t just pick a word from a list or a website, check that using this word in this particular context is correct.

Google makes this job so easy now: just put in any phrase and you’ll soon see if this phrase is a common one or if no one but you uses it.

Attention to detail

A translator must pay attention to detail. It is completely unacceptable to deliver a translation where the occurring numbers/names haven’t been transferred correctly. It should NEVER happen.

Translating everything

All translators should know about translating EVERYTHING. Since most translators today use CAT tools to overtype the original text, omissions don’t often occur. But it never hurts to check. You may have deleted something inadvertently while editing.

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