What does the future hold for translators?
Tom Goodwin, Head of Innovation, Zenith Media writes in his article “Forget coding, we need to teach our kids how to dream” that if we foster creativity, fuel curiosity and help people relate via relationships and empathy, then we empower kids to be totally self-reliant. They will be agile, adaptable to change in a world that we can’t yet foresee. He talks about a future that is not about what we remove, but what to refocus on and on developing 5 key attributes to become robust, happy and balanced people. In a world of change, technological disruption and abundant information, we as translators can take inspiration from these suggested attributes and take comfort in the fact that many of them are already innate qualities of professional translators.
The reality of the modern working world will mean that many of us won’t exist an employee, but as a creator of value through lasting, trusted human relationships. This should not be a new concept for translators because we are constantly building and maintaining relationships with project managers, direct clients and colleagues. In the future we will need to hone these people skills and leverage the value we can create through them. Translators and translation are key when exporting or importing to a new market. We professional wordsmiths and cultural experts that our clients rely on.
What limits our knowledge and depth of thought is curiosity. If there is one attribute that we are born with and yet dies as we mature, then it’s our innate human thirst to know more. I hope that you as a translator as curious! Linguists are curious creatures, they seek to understand the world around them, to learn about other cultures and connect the dots. Let’s not lose our childlike ability to be curious and ask why. It will deepen our knowledge and lateral thinking ability.
It is quite possible that even a 25 year old today may have 30 different jobs in several different careers in their life. They may earn money from 10 companies at the same time. Earning money from 10 different companies at the same time is already a reality for many translators. Instead of fighting against this need to be agile, we can continue to get better at this flexibility and use it to our advantage.
The greatest lever of value that we’ve ever known is the power of an idea. In the future we need to prioritise creativity and ideas. There are many translators that are also creatives and this is not surprising. In her article, “7 ways professional translators share their creativity with the world“, Magda Philio, Italian and English to Greek translator, speaks of the complex and creative process of adapting one text into a new reality. For her, mediating between your source and target language insinuates that a translator’s task is not only an intricate and a demanding one, but highly creative. How can you foster your creative side?
Creativity is intelligence having fun – Albert Einstein
In a world more divided and polarised than ever, we need to build bridges and commonalities. Empathy is our tool to do so. Translators are natural bridge builders. Every day we work with concepts within a text that are culture-bound and specific to the language spoken by the people of that culture. As any language professional knows, language is inextricably linked to culture. In-depth knowledge and understanding of two cultures and languages allows “interpreters do far more than bridge language gaps. They enable people from extremely different cultures to understand each other” (Found in Translation by Nataly Kelly).
In conclusion, translators are well placed to adapt the future and the changes that will continue to change the way we work if we can focus on building relationships, showing empathy and drawing on our curiosity and creativity to provide highly functional texts that add value to our clients and their companies.