The job of translators and interpreters is not an easy one but many people, including possible translation or interpreting clients who have misconceptions about what they do. Most of the misconceptions about translators and interpreters are unrealistic and inaccurate, as the work linguists do help create an environment of understanding and trust between clients and translators or interpreters.
The Misconceptions about Translators and Interpreters
It may be difficult to correct the preconceived ideas of some people, but it is vital to do just that when it comes to clients requiring linguistic services. These clients have to realize that translators and interpreters are highly skilled professionals. They are trained to do translation or interpreting work to facilitate communication and understanding between people speaking different languages. Without them, it would be difficult for an English-speaker for example, to convey information or messages to a person who only speaks and understands Chinese.
1. Translation is merely exchanging words
Many people believe that translation is easy to do since they only need to exchange words from one language to another. This is one of the biggest misconceptions about translators and interpreters. Translation is not a literal word-for-word substitution. Clients have to understand that the source text is what determines if the translation project is going to be complicated or easy. The source materials may have particular jargon and terminologies that are difficult to translate in a target language.
Each translation job has its own set of requirements, which demands precision and accuracy whether it is a small or large project. The way text is written for a press release, for example, is different from the text about healthcare or finance. Terminologies differ when translators work with legal, creative, business, research, education, medical or manufacturing information.
Moreover, the internal processes of processing a source file and turning it into the final translation involve the collaboration among the translator, project manager, editor and proofreader together with the use of dictionaries, references, terminology database and computer-aided tools.
2. If you're bilingual, you can be a translator or interpreter
If this were true, then there would never be a lack of translators and interpreters around the world. It is true that translators and interpreters should be fluent in at least two languages, as they have to work with language pairs, such as English and Japanese, Italian and Spanish or Afrikaans and Dutch. They should be a native speaker of one of the language pair they work with. A qualified translator or interpreter must live in-country so they can impart the characteristics and nuances of the native language. They should also have a bachelor's certificate or degree in translation and an acquired knowledge in a second language. In most cases, they may also have a certification or specialization in specific subjects like finance, legal, life sciences or the arts that have particular jargon.
3. Translators (and interpreters) earn a lot of money
Translation is often paid per word. For example, if the translator charges 15 cents per word and translates a 2,000-word document a day, the fee will amount to $300 for one day's work. The throughput is mapped in hours, however, so for a translator, eight hours do not equate to working for one day. As mentioned, doing translation is not an easy task. Therefore, a small translation project may take two days to finish, as translation requires attention to detail and precision. Each output has to be accurate. Thus, from the computation, the effective earning for a day is around $150 only.
The national average annual salary for a translator and interpreter in the U.S. is $55,265. Considering that most professional translators and interpreters are freelancers, the average salary is lower compared to other jobs in the same Creative and Media Jobs category. They invest in hardware and software and have to pay for an Internet connection.
4. It is all right to learn one dialect
A language has many facets and learning just one dialect does not suffice. Let us take the Spanish language as an example. Clients may think that there is only one version of Spanish that applies to all Spanish-speaking countries. Although standard Spanish may be understandable in other countries, Spanish has 26 varieties. When targeting Spanish-speaking consumers, it is better for the translation to include the slang and other unique cultural references of the target locations to grab the attention of the intended target fully.
5. Why charge more when only a translator is needed?
Some clients balk when they learn that the pricing for a translation project includes at least two linguists to work on their content. They think that only a translator is needed to do the job. The work of the translator is to convert the source text into the target text. An editor reviews that work and make the necessary corrections. It then passes a proofreader to ensure that it meets the style, format, grammar and other client-specified requirements. The number of professional linguists involved in a translation process increases depending on the size of the project.
6. Why translate when everyone speaks English?
There are still clients who think that they do not need translation services because everyone speaks and understands English. It may still be the language of business but mostly for top executives. When it comes to exploring new markets and reaching out to new customer bases, web content and other product and company information need localization, a form of specialized translation. Businesses have to speak the language of their intended consumers, which is why translation is vital to their success in the international business arena. When people from foreign markets cannot understand what you are saying, they are not going to buy.
7. Online tools provide free translation
This is one of the biggest misconceptions about translators and interpreters. Online translation tools such as those from Google, Microsoft and others are touted to provide free translations. These online tools are only good for words and short phrases, which are already in their databases. They can give you a general summary of some content in major languages. They can be used if you are chatting with new friends who speak other languages.
However, the technologies for these online translations tools are not yet advanced to handle full and accurate translations without the help of human translators. Online translation sites are not capable of infusing the nuances of a language or understand the material's context as well as the specific terminology used in the document. Algorithms power them, so they are only capable of a literal word-for-word substitution. While online translation tools may serve the immediate need to translate words and short phrases used by friends, they are not to be used for official documents that need professional linguistic expertise.
8. A translator can be an interpreter
While translators and interpreters provide linguistic services, their roles and functions are entirely different. Translators deal with written text, which they translate into the desired language of the client. They must have excellent writing skills. Translators interpret the intended meaning of the source document into the target language. They have time and tools available to finish the translation.
Interpreters handle the spoken word. They translate what the speaker says into the required language. They need to have an excellent memory, high level of fluency in the source and target languages and excellent speakers as well. They rely on their skills as they do not have linguistic tools at their disposal.
Moreover, they do not have the time to look up meanings and terminologies from references. Interpreters translate the spoken word either simultaneously or consecutively. In the latter, the speaker pauses to give time for the interpreter to render what was said into the target language and refer to the note he or she has taken down while the speaker is talking.
In simultaneous interpreting, interpreters are only given a few seconds delay before they render what is being said in the target language. This means that the interpreter has to understand and interpret what the speaker is saying almost in real time.
9. Translators and interpreters do not need to understand the culture of a language
Language and culture work together. If translators and interpreters do not understand the culture behind the languages they speak, they will not be able to deliver culturally sensitive translation or interpretation. Learning the culture gives the linguist the ability to pick appropriate idioms and cultural nuances so they can convey messages correctly.
10. Translators do not have to understand the material for translation
Would you ask a doctor to explain a legal document to you? Documents requiring translation are usually highly technical such as legal contracts, patents, financial reports, medical reports and marketing press releases. In order for a translator to be able to reproduce a document in the target language, they need to fully understand the original text word for word, as well as having a good understanding of the subject in question, in order to ensure that the meaning is conveyed accurately in the translation and that it is written in the appropriate style and language that its reader would expect.
Debunk these misconceptions about translators and interpreters.
There are so many misconceptions about translators and interpreters floating around and the work they do. They have to understand that a translator or interpreter receives the right education and certification for the job. They spend a fair amount of time training and updating their skills. They are professionals with a deep love for languages and the right skills to produce accurate translation or interpreting services.
We firmly believe in our capability to give you the best linguistic service we are capable of. Whenever you need help with translation or interpreting, call Day Translations, Inc. We have teams of professional linguists, all of them native speakers who reside in-country to give you the best linguistic service possible, anytime, anywhere. We work with more than 100 languages and we provide you the assurance that our language services are 100% accurate. We operate round-the-clock throughout the year so you are not going to miss a deadline. Call us at 1-800-969-6853 or send us an email at Contact us.