I am always quite excited when it seems that more attention is paid to translation and to translators. Our profession needs more understanding and recognition. And it needs more talented people. I encourage people to learn more about translation. But sometimes I wonder about some of the people who join the field, or who attempt to join it, or who show interest in it.
I get many emails asking for advice about how to become a translator. In the past year or so, perhaps along with the economic crisis, I’ve been disturbed to see an increase to the number of messages I get where people tell me that they need a job and think their language skills are pretty good, or that they’ve lived in a certain country and believe they could translate that country’s literature, or that they really would rather do something else, but this is a good option because they could do it from home, in between taking their kids to school, and so on.
Translation is not an easy profession. It’s a satisfying and thrilling and stimulating one, in my opinion, but it isn’t right for everyone. Nor is everyone right for translation. It is not a job to do because you happen to know a particular language sort of well. It’s not a field you can just break into by deciding that it’s the best option. It’s not something you can do while waiting for something better to come along, or even while waiting for your kids at their sports events or dance classes. It’s a profession, which means translators must be professional. Ideally, they’d also be passionate.
So if you are unsure about translation as a career and you think it is a fast and simple way of earning money, let me assure you that you are wrong. It isn’t and you’d be better off picking another job. However, if you are truly linguistically talented and knowledgeable about languages and cultures, this might be the right career for you.
Midweek Notes from a Practicing Writer
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