Some Common Misconceptions About Translators

The first misconception is that it is easy to translate something from the source language to the target language, if one has a command over both languages. This is absolutely wrong. In the first place, the text determines whether translating it would be easy or difficult. Texts with specific terminologies and jargon are difficult to translate whereas there are some simple texts which can be easy to translate. It also depends upon the expertise of  translators and their skills as to whether they  find a job difficult or easy. But to label the profession of translators as an “easy” and “less challenging” one is unfair and wrong. It is as demanding and exacting as any other job can be.

Second common misconception that it is very cheap to hire a translator since no technicalities are involved in translating one document to another language, if translator has a command over the target language. Most translators nowadays work through translation services and they are paid very well. A translator is a a language specialist with the right skills. A layman cannot become a translator just as anyone cannot become a legal expert or an IT specialist. The job of a translator is laborious and secondly it is unethical to pay low wages to a dignified professional, which is an indirect way to show disregard for his/her profession.

Third misconception about legal translation workers is that they translate “word to word”. A translator’s job is to interpret the meaning of the text in the source language and express it in the target language. Machine translation does not work and is unauthentic because it translates word to word or phrase to phrase and though it is helpful to get a general idea about the meaning of a sentence, it is unreliable and one always runs the risk of coming up with an absurdly convoluted sentence structure. This is why machine translation has not eliminated the demand for professional translators. No software or website on the internet can replace a human translator. Moreover there can be many synonyms of a word in the target language, and a translator picks out the best suitable equivalent of it, according to the context.

Fourth commonly held misconception about a translator is that they are living dictionaries.  A translator is human and cannot possibly know about all the vocabulary that exists in the target language. There are words in our mother tongue that we don’t know the meaning of. Therefore it is unjust to expect a professional translator to know about the meaning of each and every word. Some people also seem to think that translators only work with dictionaries. It is another wrong notion. Translators use different tools when translating a document including dictionaries, thesauruses, glossaries and Translation Memory software.

Fifth one, it is not right to assume that a translator would work over weekends or would be able to meet each and every deadline. To give a deadline of a few hours for a lengthy document is inhuman. Not every translator has a good typing speed, therefore to expect someone to translate a document of 1500 to 2000  words in an hour or two is not right. Only very experienced translators might be able to do so, but it should not be expected from every translator. A professional translator always proofreads the document to avoid any errors before sending it over to the client.

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