• Abby

‘Do you do simultaneous translation?’

Updated: Feb 5, 2020

I have now completed my first week as a trainee! OK, so my contract technically started on 1st October, but for the first two weeks our days were so full of seminars, talks and training that I hardly spent any time in the office. 

Before I get into life as a translation trainee, I’d like to clear up a couple of things. When I say translation, do you think of headphones, conferences and booths? Sounds exciting and glamorous I know, but… that’s not what I do. The guys and gals at important meetings and conferences wearing the headsets and letting delegates know what everyone else is saying are interpreters, not translators, and although their job also involves a good knowledge of several languages, it requires completely different skills. Translation, my profession, involves sitting at a desk, working on written texts with the help of dictionaries and, usually, CAT (computer-assisted translation) tools. The disappointed look on peoples’ faces when they realise that I am not, in fact, that person on the news interpreting Francois Hollande’s speeches into English can get quite depressing. 

Translators always translate into their mother tongue, and have one or more  languages that they translate from (‘source languages’); in my case, French, German and Italian. They are given a ‘source text’ written in one of their foreign languages, and their job is to produce a ‘target text’ by translating the source document into their mother tongue. Obviously, any kind of text can be translated; legal texts, scripts, subtitles, books, articles, etc., so most translators decide to specialise. Some specialist fields require in-depth knowledge of the subject, such as law or medicine; some translators prefer technical documents; and others enjoy working on more creative material, such as marketing texts or novels. As a freelancer I have tried my hand at several different kinds of document, from patents to adverts, and I have to admit that I prefer working on a translation that allows me to be more creative and stray further from the source text. Having said that, some of my most challenging and frustrating (but somehow also fun) jobs have involved short texts which are full of puns. But I could write a whole other blog post on that!

I wrote this post to help put my future posts about work and my traineeship into context, and I hope it’s an interesting introduction to translation for those of you who aren’t linguists! And if it has meant that one translator, somewhere, gets spared the question ‘do you translate simultaneously?’, well then all the better… 🙂

Abby x

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