My summer reading included David Crystal’s book How Language Works. It’s an easy-to-understand explanation of many aspects of language, including how we physically are able to speak and to understand language, how and when children learn languages, different writing systems, sign language, what dialects are, pidgins and creoles, and teaching languages. In short, this book is a good introduction to what language is and does.
There’s even a brief section on translation and interpretation. This section includes the following paragraph that defines what translators do and are:
“Translators aim to produce a text that is as faithful to the original as circumstances require or permit, and yet that reads as if it were written originally in the target language. They aim to be ‘invisible people’ – transferring content without drawing attention to the considerable artistic and technical skills involved in the process. The complexity of the task is apparent, but its importance is often underestimated, and its practitioners’ social status and legal rights undervalued. Some countries view translation as a menial, clerical task, and pay their translators accordingly. Others (such as the Japanese) regard it as a major intellectual discipline in its own right. The question of status is currently much debated.”