In a recent article in The Wesleyan Connection Online newsletter Literary Translator Krishna Winston discusses the Art of Translation. It was a really interesting article and I especially liked her answer about summarizing what it takes to be a translator.
The author of the article Eric Gershon posed this question:
Q: How would you summarize the art of translation?
Ms. Winston provided an excellent answer that very clearly states what it takes to truly provide a good translation in this answer:
A: I’m glad you chose to call it an art, because people who have never tried their hand at literary translation or given it much thought often mistake it for a skill, like typing or simply looking up equivalents in a dictionary. In fact it is a highly complex act of cultural transfer that calls for superior knowledge of the source language, a wide repertory in the target language, a sensitive ear, knowledge of literary tradition, research skills, and the ability to enter into the world of a work and subordinate one’s own style and ideas to the author’s. The translator must be able to analyze the work and then render it into another language without losing too many of the culturally specific connotations of the original. The task involves both conscious and intuitive processes. It has a basis in craft, but is truly an art.
For far too long translation has been considered an administrative task that can be carried out by anyone who has studied a few years of a foreign language, can type in Google’s homepage or simply comes from the country of the target language.
Think of it this way. Have a look around your organization. Does everyone in your firm have the ability to write copy in English? I am sure the answer is no. Translation is having the ability to rewrite a source text in a second language with the same flair, feeling, intent and tone of the original document.
It is not an easy skill! It is a skill honed over many years of practice and many hours of very difficult work including hours and hours of research. It is time we begin to respect the skill of the many talented linguists that provide all of us the ability to do business around the world.