Translators, humble servants of knowledge, often nameless, seldom acknowledged, more erred against than erring, forever looking for the right word.
Where would we be without them? How would we in the West enjoy the Rubaiyat without Fitzgerald? How would Europe know the Bible without St. Jerome? How would nations interact, how would they enrich each other's culture and language without their translators and interpreters?
~ Anonymous ~
Money make the world go round, or so the saying goes. Dare I say that translators and interpreters make ideas go round. Translators and interpreters are vital agents in the flow of communication, yet we are almost always forgotten. Some think our work is easy, but they fail to see the important and delicate nature of our work.
For example, when it come to literary translations of a novel or poetry, the translator has to be an artist. In fact, the translator has to become a novelist or poet in their own right. As the image above states, translation is "the skillful art of re-creating an equivalent message". This means that a translation must not only convey words or ideas from one language to another, but also express it with the right tone and make it meaningful to another linguistical community or culture. Only a skillful artist can fake a masterpiece; similarly, only a linguistical artist can translate works of literary art while conserving its splendor.
But even with more mundane translations (e.g. personal documents), the translator's role is crucial. It has often crossed my mind that the translator is the only person that truly reads documents. How else reads a birth certificate, for instance, examining each word and feature?
Translators and interpreters are truly powerful people. A single word mistranslated or misinterpreted can change to whole meaning of the message. Moreover, a document well translated or a speech well interpreted can give people and entire communities assess to resources which otherwise would be inaccessible due to language barriers; hence, in this way, translators and interpreters are also social equaliser.
Here in Australia, NAATI exists to accredit translators and interpreters. Being powerful people, the accreditation bears testimony to their qualifications, language proficiency and ethical conduct. (Of course, NAATI accreditation dose not guarantee quality, but it is a good point of reference; other reference points include their experience and academic knowledge.) For this reason the Australian Government instructs, as it should, that a NAATI accredited translator/interpreter must be used to undertake work with legal implications. However, NAATI accredited translators/interpreters are also betrayed by the Australian Government as it makes use of non-NAATI translators/interpreters. Is it too much to ask to practice what they preach?
In any case, I suppose, this goes to show how widespread and pervasive is the erroneous idea that translators and interprets are unimportance. Even in our modern age, translators and interpreters are taken for granted. Indeed, as the opening quotation states, we are still "often nameless [and] seldom acknowledged".
So next time you read a work originally in another language or relax to a movie, TV show or documentary filmed in another language, or browser a webpage originally written in another language, please pause and give thanks to translators and interpreters.