What is translation purpose? Most common definitions would agree that the purpose of translation is to “convey the original tone and intent of a message, taking into account cultural and regional differences between source and target languages” (Globalization and Localization Association), but how does this reflect the relationship between translator and client in practice?
“Skopos” is a Greek word for “aim” or “purpose” that was introduced into translation theory in the 1970s by Hans Vermeer. This went on to become the technical term for translation purpose and the act of translating for that purpose. It refers to the understanding that each text is produced for a given purpose and as such should be translated in a way that enables it to function in the situation in which it is used, with the people who want to use and in the way they intend it to function. Translators create texts for clients who may be around the corner, in the same city or on the other side of the world, but these clients are not always good at communicating with translators in terms of explaining what they want or need when asking for a translation (sometimes they don’t actually know themselves!).
International Translation Day 2016 is just around the corner! This special day for translators is celebrated every year on 30 September on the feast of St. Jerome, the Bible translator who is considered to be the patron saint of translators. I believe we have reason to celebrate: think of all the places, books and movies we access thanks to translation. Our lives would be much less interesting without translation!
The role of translators and interpreters in connecting worlds is to open up the whole world to all of us”.
As any language professional knows, language is inextricably linked to culture. An interpreter needs to have knowledge and understanding of both to communicate across cultures. This includes knowledge of norms and idioms that can often be deeply culturally bound. For example if an Australian says, “no worries, it’s a piece of cake”, they are not offering to make you a cake, they are actually saying that something is easy. Or if someone says you are “on the ball”, they don’t mean literally, they mean that you are energetic, organised, attentive and knowledgeable. How would you render that in another language? One of the greatest challenges for interpreters is conveying terms and expressions that are so culturally bound that they don’t exist in the other language. It is in such cases that
“interpreters do far more than bridge language gaps. They enable people from extremely different cultures to understand each other” (Found in Translation p.20).
So how do interpreters navigate culture and cultural differences? Read more →
Starting out as a new freelance translator can be exciting and daunting at the same time.
Finally you have the freedom and flexibility to do what you love but you also have to run a business and manage your time. Whilst you can get advice before you start out, it’s sometimes difficult to see how that advice will apply. With time to look back, you can identify the things you should have perhaps paid closer attention to. So, after a couple of years of hindsight here are 5 things I wish someone had told me as a new freelance translator:
Don’t underestimate the amount of effort, planning and organisation required
Think in terms of the problems your clients face not just about your skills
You can’t be everything to everyone. It’s ok to say no
Never stop learning and share what you learn with others
Measurement is king in everything you do – hours worked, words translated, marketing activities, accounting
As Seth Godin says in his book, Purple Cow, “Remember you can only improve that which you can measure, so in addition to thinking about the effectiveness of an action, you should always also consider how much it will cost you to measure it.”
I’m still not very good at this although I am improving, little by little. It takes time, discipline and the motivation of potential clients to help you stick with it.