The Many Hats of the Translator


The work we do as translators often requires us to approach a project and think a bit differently.  It’s important to dig and search for concepts, the lingo and buzzwords on the topic using Google, Baidu, Yahoo and whatnot. Hence the  analogy of wearing hats.

I also like to view the translator’s tasks as being either that of a gardener or a
wordsmith.  Given that I am still gaining experience, I also like to say that I approach my work as a kind of craft, and not really a skill.  I guess once I will have gained enough experience I’ll be confident enough to say that I have a real skill at doing translation. I’m lucky to have met some nice people who give me the chance at working on their projects.

What kind hats suit you best?  The feather hat of literary translation, the yellow hard hat of translating technical manuals, the engineer’s white hard hat for engineer related material, the top hat for financial and business related pieces?  Do you actually even think it’s useful to look at it that way?  If not, how do you see it?

Personally I’m more comfortable with the editing and revision of documents that have been machine translated and need a quick review, but also find enjoyment in working solely with the original source document.  It all depends on the content of the material being worked on.

Although my teachers have constantly stressed that good translators learn their trade through practice, I know for a fact some hats / projects are better suited for certain people.

If you have any thoughts on this, feel free to comment. Humor is more than welcomed.


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