What do you do? I translate.

What do you do? I translate.
When somebody asks me what I do and where I work, I usually give the same answer, “I work in a translation agency.” “Really? Wow! And how many languages do you know?” another set of questions follows in quick succession.

The translation profession is evidently associated with the knowledge of several languages, ideally three or even more. The old Czech saying, “As many languages you know, as many times youare a human being"” make me a little uneasy about myself. Maybe, the reason is that I only know two languages – German and Czech. Actually, I am able to understand English, Slovak, and Spanish texts, too, but not with the level of proficiency necessary for this profession. Want to know why?

Well, translating texts is somewhat more complex a process than it might appear to be at first sight. The basic prerequisite is not merely a good but an excellent knowledge of the grammar and orthography, of course. Hand in hand with that goes terminology, syntax, style, idiomatic language, and last but not the least fundamental avoidance of typographic errors, both in the source and target language.

What type of text is the hardest to translate?

Problematic are above all abbreviations, slogan-like expressions, or brief comments. Concepts without a complementary text are merely empty words that say nothing. If you have ever read a chart with singular terms, you know what I am talking about.

In recent years, various technological instruments and applications are being strongly promoted to help us – translators – with our work. Recently, the most often used program is perhaps SDL Trados, but personally I am using other tools too.

Translation applications designated for the broad public? As an excellent assistant during a vacation abroad – why not? However, when writing a business letter or technical specifications of a product, the outcome might be considerably uncertain. It would certainly be worthwhile to have the correctness of the translation verified by someone experienced.  

What is the conclusion?

One often sleeps with the texts one is working on (or they give one insomnia); one takes them to the dinner table or to the vacation… The initial excitement and euphoria over getting a big assignment peters out as the deadline approaches, and gradually changes into hysteria. Blissful relief and joy overcomes you only when the translation is turned in to the client and subsequently approved.  

Translating is hard work. However, it is also rewarding, since happy clients win new business opportunities thanks to my good work. This work breaks language barriers. And that is what I love about my work.