Translation: How Much Talent Required? by Julio Pinna

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People generally tend to believe that translation is merely the mechanical replacement of languages, and therefore anybody can be a translator if he/she happens to know a foreign language.

This is absolutely wrong! Knowledge of foreign languages is no guarantee that a translation will be rendered fairly well. The skill of translating is to make the right interpretation of the meaning in the target language. Therefore, a translator should understand the gist of the subject besides having good knowledge of a language, including grammar, syntax, and spelling rules.

So a good knowledge of the subject of a translation is part and parcel of the translation process. A skilled translator, however, has something else! It is his talent.

And now we are approaching the greatest challenge of a translation: how to find the proper balance between delivering the sense and beauty of the initial text and making the target translation «smooth». Only really gifted translators are capable of finding this balance.

This is particularly true when it comes to the translation of imaginative literature, especially the works of the finest classics, such as Leo Tolstoy, William Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes or Dante Alighieri. The works of such giants can only be translated by those who have the taste for and profound knowledge of fine literature, being the very best and most talented translators who are in command of «translation aerobatics».

However, this level is unreachable for most translators. Being aware of that, Vladimir Nabokov, for instance, trusted no one for translating his literary work and did it himself. The works of contemporary authors, such as Frederick Forsyth or Isabel Alliende, Umberto Eco or Patric Zuskind, also require an in-depth understanding if they are to be rendered well. Likewise, technical translations require additional skills and knowledge.

About The Author

Julio Pinna is a director of the language school in London, UK. He wrote this article for the translation jobs site

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