Today I came across a pretty funny image. Irish-based non-profit organization The Rosetta Foundation tweeted, as it usually does, a picture that speaks more than a thousand words about language and the use of English nowadays.
The message that came with the picture was “Punctuation marks are free… Why don’t we use them?”
It is a very good point. The anonymous author of this message would probably answer “because it’s bothersome” (or at least something to that effect), and anyway, wasn’t the message understandable enough?
Communication is all about understanding. An acquaintance of mine who is a foreign language teacher told me that, at some point, she gave up trying to make the students speak and write correctly, and just focused on them developing the minimal skills to be a able to verbally convey their thoughts – well enough for daily survival. In this Darwinian scenario where only the most vital elements of the language survive, things like punctuation marks, connectors or complex grammar are left behind.
That is why, whenever someone asks me what are the important factors to take into consideration when becoming a translator, and expect me to automatically answer “speaking different languages”, they end up being sorely disappointed. Because the first thing that comes out of my mouth is, in fact, being a good writer. And both experienced linguists and people that have hired translators at some point surely share this thought.
Knowing languages is, obviously, a key part of being a translator. But the quality of a translator is not measured in how many languages s/he knows, but in how masterfully s/he can use them to avoid losing anything during a document translation. And that is achieved by good writing: proper grammar and complete control of the target language will be crucial to make sure that the message stays the same – not literally, but in meaning. Words may differ, sentence construction and even paragraph structure may follow completely different paths, but at the end of the day both texts must leave the same impression on the reader.
Not a lot of people are capable of such a feat. That is why inwhatlanguage takes so much care and pride in its selection of linguists, and considers proofreading an integral part of the translation process. No amount of detail is too much: we are a translation agency, one of the best out there as stated in TopTenReviews, and that can be seen in each and every one of our delivered projects.
Writing for a translator is not only an art: it’s a way of life. Of course, that comes with its set of advantages, as well. Only seasoned translators and linguists can enjoy jokes such as this one!