Translators: the Invisible Heroes

Whenever I reply to strangers’ question regarding my profession, I get two different reactions: some show particular interest and ask me about the languages I translate from and to, some others get a vague expression, as if they are staring at an alien.

In both cases, however, I am sure that one thought crosses their mind: do you actually earn your living pretending to earn money from a hobby, especially during period of a glob-around financial crisis?

What does not cross their mind is:

–           They all have purchased imported products from somewhere and they all have used instruction manuals in order to set up a device or a piece of furniture, etc. Do they stop to consider that there must be someone out there in the world that has written these manuals and then they were translated by professionals? Hmm, maybe not.

–          They all use computers. All the software is in their language. Do they believe that the texts of the software are actually written for every country by a native speaker? Hmm, maybe!

–          They all use smart phones, or at least a mobile phone. The same applies here. The software needs to be translated in order for them to use it in an efficient manner. Have they thought about it? Hmm, maybe not!

–          They all posses a car. Their choice may have been the result of a commercial they have seen on TV. Do they think that the automotive car industry spends part of their budget to create different commercials for every single country?  Most of the times, there is one global campaign, the messages are translated and adapted. Are people aware of this? Hmm, maybe not!

–           They book holidays. They check the website of the hotel of their choice and they can read all the information in their language and not in the native language of the country they are visiting. Do they think this is done automatically? Hmm, maybe!

These are just a few examples of a translator’s portfolio. They also serve as evidence that especially in countries of a small population, translation is an integrated part of everyone’s everyday life. The fact that people are not aware that they have probably used goods accompanied by a product created by a professional translator should not make translators frown. People say that behind a great man, there is always a great woman! I say, behind a product, there is always a translator! So, heads up, fellow translators! We are the invisible heroes. Because, languages are Glob-around!

This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. Konstantina, very nice article – I can say, that the sense of our occupation is expressed in a new way here. I have my blog about translation, it’s in Russian and I woul like to translate your article into Russian for my blog. I would appreciate it if you say “yes” =)

    1. Anna,

      Apologies for the late reply! Of course, you may! Please send me the link when you uploaded it on your blog! Merry Christmas!

  2. Konstantina
    As you know, I am an interpreter, who has yet to take the plunge into translating but you make some very good points here. Many non linguists are of the opinion that,”Anyone can do that on a computer.” Linguists know, that this is definitely not the case.

    1. Donald,

      Thank you for your comment. There are certain common skills that translators and interpreters share! I am sure that you can apply your skills in translating!
      Let me know if you need any pieces of advice when you do!

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