The 30th of September has been recognised as International Translation Day for over fifty years. It was originally chosen because of the feast of St. Jerome, patron saint of translators. This year will be the first time that this day is accepted by the UN as well, after their official sanction on the 24th of May.
On this special day, we would like to ask if you have ever wondered what goes on in the everyday life of a translator. If the answer is no, that would be perfectly understandable, as meeting a person who is a career translator is quite a rare commodity – of the world population, only 0.01% of people work in the translation industry.
In all honesty, the translator is something of a mysterious figure – a ninja of the written word, who slips in unnoticed, operates quickly and accurately and then disappears. In most cases, clients that require translation services – with the notable exception of interpreting – never actually get to interact with their translator at all, not even via email. Quite often, translation companies act as mediators, with the aim of simplifying and speeding up the translation process for their clients. In literature, the translator’s name is in most cases well-hidden on the back of the front page, possibly in a very small, very demure font.
And so it happens that most of the time we forget about the translator’s existence at all, or when we picture them we just have a vague idea of a faceless figure sitting behind a laptop somewhere in an anonymous office. Because, to be honest, what exactly does a translator do?
How does a translator work?
To get an idea of what the job encompasses, we should first establish a rough outline of the translation process. Of course, every individual translator is different and has a unique approach and work methodology. There are, however, basic common processes to go through when translating.
The First Draft
The first step to professionally translating a text is to read it through quickly, getting an idea of the length, structure and complexity of the text.
This first read is generally followed by a more thorough analysis, where the translator tries to identify the main issues that could arise during the translation process, such as culturally charged words, sentences of difficult understanding, idioms or jokes that could get lost in translation or very technical concepts that will require an exact equivalent.
What follows is the writing of a first superficial draft, which will need to be re-edited and checked at least two times before it is ready for external revision.
Taking a Break
Many translators choose to put the text aside for a little while between the first and second draft, and to clear their mind, either working on different texts or, if their schedule allows it, taking a real break (engaging in activities that can vary from gardening to tea brewing, picking up the kids from school and dropping them to judo classes). The idea behind taking a break is to allow your head to clear a little, so that when you approach the translation again you will be able to see your work from a different angle.
Once the work is finalised and proofread, it is generally sent for an external revision, completed by another translator.
Somewhere else, in a different house, another linguist is going through a very similar process to the one that has just finished. They are editing, spell checking and readjusting the translated text. When they are done, the text is sent back to the original translator for a final revision, where they decide whether to accept or alter the changes.
When all steps and procedures are followed, translation can be a very straightforward job, but there are rare times when even the most well-planned projects can go array. Natural, unpredictable causes like a power cut in the region or extreme weather (or even a national strike in the coffee industry!) can throw a translation off course. The most experienced translators will have seen it all; complex formatting, super specific client requests, difficult source texts and very urgent, tight deadlines – and it’s for this reason that Wolfestone handpicks experienced, native linguists for all of our translation projects.
At Wolfestone, we pride ourselves in delivering the best service to our customers while creating a friendly and cared-for environment for our language providers, to make sure that our love of translation keeps spreading further and further.
If you’re a freelance translator and would like more information on partnering with Wolfestone, click here.