July 19, 2018
It is a reality in Mexico that the work of a translator is not recognized as an important profession like many others are. Maybe everything starts from the very perception of translation as a professional career. Countless times, when people find out there is a degree in Translation, you will hear them ask: "But why four years?" “What could they teach you in college if you are already fluent in English?" "But you only need a dictionary to translate, don’t you?" At that point, you realize that people do not underestimate the translation itself. They simply do not understand what the translation process implies; they do not understand the entire process in translation methodology, terminology research or morphosyntactic analysis.
The reality is different. Yes, there is much to study in four years in college, and, in addition, there are master’s degrees and PhDs in this regard. There is a structured process behind a translation that a dictionary alone does not solve; the dictionary is just one part of a long and complicated process.
Those who work in the translation industry understand how important their role in today’s progressively interconnected world is; however, the field remains unrecognized also in the professional arena. Even as the need for translation grows in every area – legal, health care, financial, etc. – the relevance of the profession has not grown proportionately. Translators are often seen as invisible participants in a crucial role played by them in society. They stay invisible and underappreciated by the people who, without being aware of it, benefit from the translator’s work. How do they benefit? In countless ways: literature, movies, scientific breakthroughs, culture. The list goes on.
As Lawrence Venuti states in his book The Translator’s Invisibility:
I see translation as an attempt to produce a text so transparent that it does not seem to be translated. A good translation is like a pane of glass. You only notice that it is there when there are little imperfections – scratches, bubbles. Ideally, there shouldn’t be any. It should never call attention to itself. (Norman Shapiro, cit. Venuti 1995:14)
One of the solutions proposed by several translators and authors of the Theory of Translation is to include proper promotion and education on the subject of translation studies. Since this invisibility is inevitable in a well-done job, at least people can understand with this promotion and education why this invisibility phenomenon occurs, and most importantly, that it will only occur with well-prepared and trained professional translators, because non-professional translators, basically because of the lack of studies and preparation, cannot develop this power of becoming invisible to the reader.
As translators, we understand the relevance of the profession in a world that demands faster and more effective communication. We certainly know the dangers posed by a bad translation; mistakes can lead to safety hazards in many industries, to dissatisfied clients, to incomplete processes. There are consequences that people cannot even imagine, because, if they could, they would refrain from translating without the proper preparation and awareness of the responsibility that transmitting messages properly conveys.
There are many skills that a translator must possess: native or near-native fluency in both the source and the target languages, a thorough understanding of the topic being translated, a research-oriented and a detail-oriented ability, among many others. These requirements necessarily limit the number of skilled translators in the industry. The perception of their work as “something simple any bilingual person can do” may be the main source of frustration for those translators who are highly qualified yet underappreciated. This perception of “simplicity” cannot be further from the truth.
The field of translation will certainly continue to grow. It is our hope that as this happens the profession will gain increasing recognition in society. As translators, we really hope so.
was born in Mexico City, she has an extensive background in interpretation and translation. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Interpretation, plus different courses of Terminology, Legal Translation, English for Translators, Education, and Finance. She is fluent in Spanish, English, French and Portuguese, including business vocabulary and specialized terminology. She has taught several courses for translators at different universities in Mexico City. Currently, she is the Director of Linguistics and Processes at Traduservice. She is in charge of controlling aspects of translation quality, using quality metrics, translation models and processes.