The conversation with translator Ken Schubert
BJE: If you could describe the ideal translator, what qualities/background/experiences/education would s/he have?
KS: I think the ideal translator would have as broad a background as possible, love the process of translation and be particularly attuned to nuances in his or her native language. I also think that the ideal translator would have the ability to comprehend a text as a whole and to maintain a single voice (even when the source text fails to do so – unless it's intentional, of course).
BJE: I wonder if you have any general advice/comments for new translators. How can they find jobs? Where do they look? What should they keep in mind while translating? What do you like most about translating?
KS: Probably the best ways for new translators to find jobs is to stay in touch with other translators through a translator's association and to contact lots of agencies. That will provide you with the experience and contacts to find direct customers. Customers will start coming to you after a while based on recommendations from other translators and customers. Advertising is generally too expensive and ineffective. Beyond what I've talked about, probably the most important thing to keep in mind is accuracy and neatness. Double check all names and numbers and make sure that you haven't inadvertently missed some of the source text. No matter how good your translation is, the customer will tend to overlook it if you make sloppy mistakes. Run a spell check on the final translation no matter how long it takes. Use Internet search engines as much as possible, but don't believe everything you see there and make sure you understand how the search engines work. I also recommend using a translation tool like Trados or Deja Vu. That creates an easily accessible database of your previous translations and helps structure individual assignments. A text looks a lot less daunting when you can use a translation tool to break it down into its constituent parts. And perhaps the most important thing is to be professional with your customers – be firm about your sense of what translation is all about, but always be willing to discuss what you've done and make appropriate changes.
BJE: Ken, thank you very much for your thoughtful answers and for being so generous with your time and experience.
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