Translating – don’t you just press a button on the computer?

Maybe not strictly a creative writing matter, but when fellow writers ask me about my previous life and I say I was a translator for over 20 years,they seem interested to learn more.

The main thing I tell them is about quality. Google’s great for getting the bare bones out of something, but if you want a professional job, you need a human being.

You really do.

If I had a pound/euro for everytime I’ve heard a version of this article’s title, I’d have a private villa on the Côte d’Azur with built-in staff by now.

Proper translators train over approx 5-7 years. They have a first degree in languages or translation & interpreting, plus a post-grad qualification e.g. the CIOL Diploma in Translation (DipTrans) or MA, plus they are full, qualified members of either the Chartered Institute of Linguists (thus MCIL after their name) and/or the Institute of Translation & Interpreting (thus MITI).

Now like all professional qualifications, this doesn’t guarantee anything, but clients can be assured the translator has been put through a rigorous training programme and professional assessment,they meet accredited competence standards and are subject to a code of conduct.

Oh, and proper translators only ever translate into their mother-tongue. I still translate,  working from French into English. but I have French partners who work into French, one of whom is a sworn translator for a French court.

Okay, rant over.

Of course, I’d love to carry out translations for you :-), but mainly, I wanted to de-bug some of the myths and misinformation. I ran a translation company for many years, so know a lot of people translating all sorts of languages, so do contact me for their details (See About & Contact page for email).

2 comments to Translating – don’t you just press a button on the computer?

  • With you all the way with this one, but on line translation, whilst shot with flaws has its place.
    Many years ago I had to produce (wait for it) a cookbook of Welsh recipes in Italian – with only the barest of Italian, I used babelfish, which is , shall we say somewhat imperfect, and managed to work may way though by highlighting the obvious errors and changing them, by consulting a dictionary and a basic grammar book
    As the work was being assessed as part of a larger project, I joked with my Head of Department that I was hoping that the moderator was neither an Italian specialist of a member of the Institute of Linguists.
    Suffice to say, Italian was her speciality and she actually taught on the Institute of Linguists course at the local uni.
    She asked me how I had managed to do the work with no knowledge of the Italian Language. Iexpalined, she passed me with fling colours and said she could never have done the same thing herself. Food for thought.

  • alison

    Ah, but Helen, you are fluent in French and Spanish, and a natural linguist, so I expect those instincts also came into play.A case of the known unknowns.

    But, I have to say that to get a tip-top fluent result, it may have been worthwhile running it past a native Italian speaker.