Misconceptions about translators

Top ten misconceptions people have about translators, according to Jez on July 5th.

An excellent list. Examples:

bq. 10. Anybody with two years of high school language (or a foreign-tongued grandmother) can translate.
9. A good translator doesn’t need a dictionary.

Like the first commenter, I queried only number 4:

bq. 4. Becoming a translator is an easy way to get rich quick.

I don’t think people imagine that translators are getting rich quick – well, perhaps some of them do. And I do think you can earn well from translation, although I agree translation takes longer than most people think.

Another comment mentions the belief that it’s equally easy to translate into and out of one’s native language.

Some localized misconceptions about literary translation occur to me:

(The term literary translation has two meanings. It can be used to mean translating fiction, drama and poetry, which is what I mean here; it can also mean translating for publishers, including non-fiction.)

1. Literary translation uses different and superior brain cells from non-literary translation.

2. Literary translators make a good living; non-literary translators don’t.

3. When you find that the translator you’re talking to only does non-literary translation, it’s tactful to change the subject.

3 thoughts on “Misconceptions about translators

  1. Quote from page 7 of Dan Brown’s book Digital Fortress: “As with all young professors, David’s university salary was modest. From time to time, when he needed to renew his squash club membership or restring his old Dunlop with gut, he earned extra money by doing translating work for government agencies in around Washington.”

    You see, it’s that easy. More about “David” here.

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