The Work of a Translator

Language Service Provider (LSP)

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Quick. If I asked you to picture a translator, what image would appear in your mind’s eye? Would you picture someone working in an Indian call center wearing a headset? Would you see someone standing to the side, facing the audience, and signing along with a politician during a press conference?

Chances are, whoever and whatever you picture is not entirely accurate. For one thing, the images I’m describing above are images of interpreters, not translators. While many use the terms interchangeably, translators and interpreters are not the same. Translators convert one language into another using written form. Interpreters, on the other hand, work in spoken communication.

Still, even if you know the difference between translation and interpretation, you might not know much more about what professional translators actually do. Let’s take a closer look.

What does a translator do?

At the highest level, a translator takes written texts, whether medical documents or content from a website, and converts those texts from the original language into the target language while preserving the meaning of the original.

In general, a translator will translate into their native tongue. So, if your first language is Spanish, but you are fluent in English and Portuguese, you could offer translation services as an English to Spanish translator or a Portuguese to Spanish translator, rather than the other way around. This way, the text will always sound more fluid and you’ll naturally catch subtle nuances that can get lost when translating into a non-native language.

Translation is about more than language skills

Obviously, strong language skills, including knowledge about grammar and syntax, are required to be a professional translator or interpreter. But even those with outstanding language skills are not necessarily the best translators. A truly proficient translator knows how to convey cultural concepts, not just written words.

At its core, translation is about communicating and communicating is about so much more than words. A deeper understanding of any language pair is linked to higher quality translations. So, it helps if a translator is passionate about bridging cultural divides and facilitating global connections.

This is one aspect that sets DTS apart from other language service providers. The translators we partner with take pride in making the human component a priority. Our experts are not only native speakers of your target language, but they go out of their way to become proficient in terminology specific to your needs.

In particular, we search the globe for translators with the following skills:

  • Cultural understanding: As I say above, great translators know how to convey cultural concepts, not just words. If a word-for-word translation sounds ridiculous in the target language, a professional translator should see that right away and find a culturally acceptable way to convey the same meaning.
  • People skills: All the passion and skill in language and culture amounts to nothing, if a translator has the time management skills of a turnip and fails to deliver projects as promised. We look for translators who also understand the client comes first.
  • Critical thinking skills: Translation projects can be unpredictable. It’s important for translators to understand at a high level what’s being requested for a particular job, so they can solve any challenges that arise. Without critical thinking skills, translators risk incorrectly completing the translation, upsetting the client, and having to work overtime to fix issues. No bueno.
  • Subject matter expertise: Because the goal of translation should be to produce a text that does not sound or feel like it was translated, subject matter expertise is important. If you are relying on bilingual staff without medical training to translate clinical trial protocols, you are taking a huge risk. Subject matter experts will provide the most accurate and reliable translations.

Always a balancing act

Above all, it’s important to realize that languages are living. New words are invented, cultural trends come and go, and what works today may sound stilted and stale in a few months or years. Professionals make it part of their jobs to stay on top of these changes.

Great translators know how to walk the narrow line between producing a text that flows and staying true to the source document. This is no easy feat! And it is one of the reasons we find it hard to believe a computer could ever have the edge over a skilled professional translator.

Humor and idioms are among the most difficult types of text to translate. Take for example the German idiom, “Tomaten auf den Augen haben.” Literally, this phrase means, “you have tomatoes on your eyes.” But clearly, a word-for-word translation is not the best way to convey the meaning from German into English. Plug the phrase into Google Translate and you get: “not to see obvious things”—also not the most natural sounding English rendering.

The real meaning is closer to “not being able to see what’s right in front of you or what others can see.” So a better translation would be an English idiom such as: “you’re wearing blinders” or perhaps “you’re looking at the world through rose-colored glasses.”

The insights and examples above give you a small glimpse into the work of a translator. So just how glamorous is this life? Well, not very. Most translators work from home (in their pj’s). But what this career lacks in glamor, it makes up for in satisfaction. Translators enjoy a highly flexible work life that makes traveling the world and working from anywhere a real possibility.

Besides the perks of working for yourself from anywhere with Internet access, many translators see their careers as more of a vocation. Not only are they using their talents to help people living in different parts of the world to communicate with ease, they are doing their small part to tear down the walls that divide nations. What could be more satisfying than that?

DTS Listens

We appreciate that you have choices when it comes to translation and language service providers. That’s why we work to consistently deliver high-quality, accurate, and on-time translations. If you want worry-free language services, you can’t go wrong choosing DTS.

If you’re ready to experience the DTS difference, contact us today for your FREE and fast online document translation quote. Our experts will make sure your message gets through loud and clear. DTS has the solution for worry-free medical translation services!